New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the newly built Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. The 9.02-kilometre long tunnel is dubbed as the world's longest highway tunnel. The new tunnel will provide all-season connectivity to Ladakh by connecting it with Manali.

While addressing the dignitaries present at the inauguration ceremony, PM Modi said that the Atal Tunnel will prove to be a lifeline not just for a big part of Himachal Pradesh but also for Ladakh, adding that Leh-Ladakh will now stay connected with the other parts of the country throughout the year with the use of this tunnel.

"Atal Tunnel, apart from a big region in Himachal Pradesh, will also become a lifeline for the new union territory Ladakh. With this, Leh-Ladakh, and this big region of Himachal Pradesh will always stay connected with the other parts of the country, and will quickly move forward on the path to progress," the Prime Minister said at the inauguration ceremony of the Atal Tunnel, as quoted by news agency ANI.

"This tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Kelong by three to four hours. My brothers and sisters from the hills can understand the meaning of this," he added.

Terming it a historic day, Prime Minister Modi said that the wait of crores of Himachal residents has been completed along with the fulfilment of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dreams with the tunnel's inauguration.

"Today is a historic day, it's not that just Atalji's dreams have been fulfilled, but the over decades-long wait of crores of Himachal Pradesh's residents has come to an end. I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to inaugurate the Atal Tunnel," he said.

PM Modi also thanked and saluted all jawans, engineers, labourers who had risked their lives to ensure the completion of the tunnel. The PM said that the tunnel will give India's border infrastructure a new strength.

"Atal Tunnel will 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 planning stage or got stuck midway. Connectivity has a direct connection with development. Connectivity in border areas is directly related to security," he said.

Taking a jibe at the Congress-led UPA government in the past, PM Modi said that experts have told him that if the work was continued at the same pace it was done in Congress rule then it would take 26 more years to complete the construction.

"Atal Ji laid the foundation stone of approach road of this tunnel in 2002. Once his government went out of power, this job was most likely forgotten. Till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel. Experts say that if the pace of progress had continued at the same rate then the tunnel would have likely been completed by 2040. After 2014, the project progressed with unprecedented pace. Every problem which BRO faced was removed, as a result, while earlier every year 300-metre tunnel was being constructed, it was increased to 1,400 metres per year. We completed 26 years work in just six years," the PM said.

"Emphasis has been put on the development of border infrastructure. Its benefits are being extended to the common people as well as our armed forces personnel. There is nothing more important for us than protecting the country. But the country has also seen that a period when the defence interests of the country were compromised," he added.

(With Agency Inputs)

Posted By: Talib Khan