Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioned the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for its lack of focus on the development of border areas. PM Modi who inaugurated the Atal Tunnel on Saturday questioned the previous government on the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh that was closed for nearly 50 years.
The foundation for the 9.02-km Atal Tunnel that will link Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley was laid in 2002. "Many other important projects were treated in the same way as Atal Tunnel. The strategically important Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh remained closed for 40-45 years. I do not want to go into details about the helplessness and the pressure behind it," said PM Modi.
The Prime Minister said that the previous government lacked the will to open the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip. "Security of the country is of prime importance for the Union government and the creation of border infrastructure is one of its top priorities. There was nothing more important for us than protecting the country," PM Modi said adding that the defence interests of the country were also compromised at a point.
He emphasised on the role of direct connectivity in development and economic progress. "We also know that connectivity in border areas is directly related to security-related issues of the country," PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that the previous government had deliberately delayed the construction of Atal Tunnel. He said that if the work had continued at the same pace, it would have completed in 2040. He said that till 2013-14, only 1,300 metres of the tunnel was made. It was after 2014 that the project picked up pace.
He said that the Atal Tunnel realised former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dream. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, Union Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Singh Thakur and the Border Road Organisation's Director General Lt Gen Harpal Singh were present at the inauguration ceremony.
Atal Tunnel will reduce road distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and travel time by five hours.
"The Tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 mtrs (10,000 Feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL). It has state of the art electromechanical systems including semi transverse ventilation, SCADA controlled fire fighting, illumination and monitoring systems. The Tunnel has ample safety features built into it," said the government.