Tribune News Service
Solang (Manali), October 3
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, Himachal Pradesh, and lashed out at the Congress-led previous governments, saying strategic projects were neglected and defence interests were compromised for years.
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.
“Work on the Rohtang tunnel was being undertaken at a snail’s pace prior to 2014 and at that speed, work would have been completed in 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.
The Prime Minister accused the UPA regime of putting strategic defence projects of roads, bridges and tunnels in various parts of the country on the back burner.
Speaking at a public meeting after inaugurating The Atal Rohtang tunnel, he said there was a complete lack of political will in according top priority to projects of connectivity which are vital in strengthening the defence needs, especially in the border areas.
Citing example of construction of an air strip in Ladakh, he said the previous regimes showed complete disinterest in accomplishing these projects which were not just of immense strategic importance but would have ushered in economic prosperity.
“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.
Striking an emotional chord with the people of Himachal Pradesh, he said he had a right over the state and its people as he remained in charge of party affairs in Himachal.
“Very often, me and Dhumal ji would broach the topic of the tunnel with Atal ji, who saw this dream of Rohtang tunnel, which has today become a reality,” he said.
Crediting his regime of accepting One Rank-One Pension demand of ex-servicemen, he said one lakh retired Army personnel had benefited from it in Himachal. He said the previous regime only rendered lip service to the issue of one rank-one pension.
He said the Defence Ministry, the Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs must jointly showcase the Atal tunnel as an engineering marvel for students of engineering and science.