Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the newly-inaugurated all-weather Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh, that links Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley, will bring employment opportunities for the youth of the entire region.
After a decade of sheer hard work of the Border Roads Organisation, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated a 9.02 km-long horseshoe-shaped two-lane tunnel earlier on Saturday. It is one of the world's most challenging tunnels and a marvel of engineering motorways.
Addressing the public from the snow-clad Sissu town of Lahaul valley, the Prime Minister said that the tunnel will boost tourism and ease travelling. "It will connect the youth of this entire region with many employment opportunities. Some people will run homestays, guesthouses, shops or become guides. Handicrafts, fruits and medicines will also get a boost."
Modi said that with the construction of the tunnel, the farmers of the region and people associated with horticulture, cattle-rearers, students and traders will be benefitted.
"Earlier, people in areas like Lahaul-Spiti and others were left to struggle on their own. In recent years, work is being done with new thoughts," he said, in an apparent dig at the erstwhile UPA government.
Besides this, the completion of the Atal Tunnel is a key element in the Defence Ministry's attempts to make the entire 475 km-long Manali-Keylong-Leh highway, used by the armed forces to reach forward areas in Ladakh bordering China and Pakistan, motorable almost round the year.
After inaugurating the tunnel, the Prime Minister had said the majestic Atal Tunnel, beneath the lofty Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh's Kullu district, would give new strength to India's border infrastructure.
"It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn't get out of the planning stage or got stuck midway," Modi said.
Considered a wonder of human perseverance, the Rohtang tunnel, a dream of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and named after him posthumously, was completed after 10 years of hard work by the BRO with an outlay of Rs 3,200 crore.
The tunnel's foundation stone was laid by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010, in the Solang valley near Manali.