Solang (Himachal Pradesh), June 28 (IANS) The construction of a tunnel under the Rohtang pass will give a boost to tourism in the region, facilitate better medical treatment and provide more avenues of employment to the youth, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Monday after laying its foundation stone.
‘People will be able to meet their daily needs round the year. Medical treatment will be facilitated. Tourism will get a boost and youth will have more avenues of employment,’ Gandhi, who is chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC), said at a rally here after kickstarting the construction work of the 8.8-km Rohtang tunnel.
The tunnel will enable year-round connectivity between Manali and the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
She said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was committed to the development of hilly states like Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Dwelling on her family’s association with Himachal Pradesh, she said former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru came for vacations to Manali and Himachal attained statehood while Indira Gandhi was the prime minister.
The tunnel at Rohtang will ensure all-weather road connectivity to Lahaul and Spiti valleys of the Himalayan state which remain cut off from the rest of the country due to snow during the harsh winter.
A multi-faith prayer meeting was organised before Gandhi inaugurated the excavation work of the prestigious project, expected to cost nearly Rs.1,500 crore ($325 million).
Priests from Hindu, Muslim, Christianity and Buddhist sects prayed for the accomplishment of what some Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials term as a ‘grave geological challenge’.
Gandhi also lifted the curtain from a black granite tablet that read: ‘Foundation stone of the Rohtang Tunnel laid by Smt Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson National Advisory Council, on June 28, 2010.’
Gandhi, by initiating the construction work, gave wings to the idea her husband and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had conceived 26 years ago.
Once completed, the tunnel will meet the demands of the nearly 34,000 people of Lahaul and Spiti valleys, which have remained underdeveloped due to lack of communication links.