Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate the Atal Rohtang Tunnel—at a height of 10,000 feet, the world's longest tunnel for traffic--in Himachal Pradesh on October 3. However, he has dropped his plan for stopping for the night at Lahaul valley.
“It's going to be a day long trip. Hon'ble PM will arrive at Manali for the inaugural function and will drive through the Atal tunnel to Sishu in Lahaul-Spiti. As per revised plan approved by the PMO, there is no night halt as proposed earlier,” said chief secretary Anil Khachi.
Modi will address two public rallies--at Solang Nullah (Manali) in Kullu district and at Sishu in Lahaul-Spiti district. The state government has been asked to ensure social distancing during the rallies; not more than 200 people will be permitted to attend each event.
At a cabinet meeting attended by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Khachi made a detailed presentation of the prime minister's visit and the media coverage plan. A live coverage of Modi’s tour is planned by Doordarshan and AIR.
On September 25, Ajay Kumar, secretary, ministry of defence, visited the tunnel and held a meeting with BRO officials.
The 9.2 km-long tunnel will provide round-the-year, all-weather connectivity Lahaul-Spiti—which remains cut off by heavy snow for six months from the rest of the country. Emergencies, including medical help, is delivered by a helicopter service, and that too is often suspended due to inclement weather. The tunnel has also assumed strategic importance during India's stand-off with China in the Ladakh region.
The Atal Tunnel--a dream project of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, will considerably shorten the 46 km distance between Manali and Keylong, headquarters of Lahaul Spiti. The government is working on a plan to build another tunnel on the Keylong-Leh route, which will also ensure round-the-year mobility for the Indian Army and the strategic supplies it needs.
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