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Strategic Atal Tunnel, a bond of friendship & love

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BY VISHAL GULATI Manali, Sep 30 : Years have gone since the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made his exit from this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort, but the legends of his love for locals and the state continue to live.
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming here this Saturday to inaugurate the 9.02-km long horseshoe-shaped single-tube, two-lane tunnel — one of India’s strategically most important infrastructure projects beneath the majestic Rohtang Pass — many locals still insist it was Vajpayee’s way of repaying where he preferred to spend his time in solitude.
Considered a marvel of engineering motorways, the Rohtang tunnel, a dream of Vajpayee and named after him posthumously, has been completed after 10 years of sheer hard work by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) with an outlay of Rs 3,200 crore.
Residents of Prini, located on the outskirts of Manali where the gentleman politician had built a cottage, believe Vajpayee was the man behind cementing the “tunnel of friendship” constructed at 3,000 metres above sea level beneath the majestic Rohtang Pass — the only road link between this town and the landlocked Lahaul Valley.
Many believe the tunnel construction was the promise that Vajpayee had made to his old-time friend Tashi Dawa, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader.
“On their regular interactions, largely during Vajpayee’s visit to his cottage (in Prini), they discussed in detail the hardships the people of Lahaul were facing while crossing the Rohtang Pass, especially during winters,” Dawa’s son Ram Dev, who retired from the Information and Public Relations Department, told IANS.


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