Inauguration of Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh.

05 Oct 2020, 01:51 PM IST

The decades-long dream of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s friend, Arjun Gopal, came true on Saturday with the inauguration of Atal Tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh.

Amar Singh and Ram Dev, sons of Arjun Gopal alias Tshidawa, said their father had suggested the development of the tunnel to the previous prime minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important all-weather Atal Tunnel, which reduces the space between Manali and Leh by 46 km and therefore the time period by four to 5 hours.

Atal Tunnel is that the longest highway tunnel within the world, and the 9.02 km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. The valley was earlier stop for about six months per annum thanks to heavy snowfall.

The tunnel is made with ultra-modern specifications within the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of three ,000 metres (10,000 feet) from the Mean water level (MSL).

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had earlier said, “Vajpayee got the thought for constructing the tunnel on a suggestion from his friend Arjun Gopal of Tashi Dobhe village in Lahaul.”

Talking to PTI in their native village Tholang in Lahaul-Spiti district, Amar Singh (75) said his father met Vajpayee in 1998 in Delhi, seeking the development of the strategically significant tunnel beneath Rohtang Pass for the advantage of the residents of Lahaul-Spiti district.

“My father gave up the ghost in 2008. Today, his decades-long dream came true and my joy knows no bound,” he said.

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Singh, who retired as state deputy director (education), said the previous prime minister and his father came close during an officers’ training camp (OTC) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1942 in Gujarat’s Vadodara.

“When Vajpayee became the prime minister in 1998, my father met him through a prominent RSS activist Chaman Lal…,” he said.

Singh said ‘Lahaul-Spiti-Pangi Janjaati Sewa Samiti’ was formed with Gopal as its founder president to pursue the development of the tunnel.

He also travelled during a Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus which was flagged off by Modi from north portal in Lahaul to south portal in Manali of Kullu district.

“The agriculture, horticulture and tourism sectors of the tribal district will witness a positive transformation within the coming days. The tribal district wont to remain stop for about five months thanks to snow-laden roads during winters,” Dev added.

Residents of the tribal district also hailed the development of the tunnel.

Pushpa Devi of Kirting village of the district said there was not the necessity for rushing to other districts for medical help. She said earlier pregnant women were shifted from the district to Kullu-Manali for safe delivery.

Similarly, Sanjay Yarpa of Gahar valley said critical patients had to suffer tons as they might not be airlifted to Kullu-Manali for better healthcare as helicopters did not land here thanks to inclemency during winters.

“This problem will now cease to exist as road connectivity through the tunnel will remain operational almost throughout the year,” he rejoiced.

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