Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel here and lashed out at the Congress-led previous governments, saying strategic projects were neglected and defence interests were compromised for years.
Atal Tunnel, built by the Border Roads Organisation, is the longest highway tunnel in the world and reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km. It also reduces the travel time by four to five hours.
Speaking on the occasion, Modi said Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation of the approach road for this tunnel, but after his government left, the project was all but forgotten.
Experts say that the pace at which Atal Tunnel was being constructed after the Vajpayee-led NDA government were to continue, the tunnel would have been completed by 2040, he said.
"Our govt increased the pace of construction from 300 meters per year to 1,400 meters per year and completed the project in 2020," Modi said.
The work on Atal Tunnel was accelerated after 2014 and in just six years the government completed the work of 26 years, he said.
Just like the Atal Tunnel similar treatment was meted out to several such projects.
"There was no political will. I can talk about dozens of projects that are important from the strategic point of view, but for years they were neglected," he said, hitting out at the previous Congress-led governments.
"Nothing more important to us than protecting country, but there was an era when defence interests were compromised," he said, in an apparent swipe at the Congress.