My colleague in the Union Council of Ministers Shri Rajnath Singh ji, Himachal Pradesh’s popular Chief Minister Bhai Jai Ram Thakur ji, parliamentarian from Himachal and my colleague in the central government, Himachal’s young boy Shri Anurag Thakur ji, Minister in Himachal government Bhai Govind Thakur ji, other ministers, parliamentarians, legislators, sisters and brothers.
Many many congratulations to all the people of Kullu, Lahaul, Leh and Ladakh for the gift of this tunnel which was the dream of our revered Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji.
I bow down and offer my gratitude to the deified land of Mother Hidamba, ascetics and sages which has a vibrant and unique tradition of gods in every village. And this land of Kanchannag … our Chief Minister Jairam ji was mentioning about my paragliding hobby. It seemed nice to fly, but I used to have trouble breathing when I had to walk up by lifting the entire kit. And once it so happened, I don’t know whether anybody has done it in the world or not. Atal ji had come to Manali. I came a little earlier as I was the person in charge of the organization. We made a programme. As Atal ji arrived, 11 paragliders and pilots showered flowers on him from the skies of Manali. Perhaps, paragliding was not put to this kind of use anywhere in the world. But when I went to meet Atal ji in the evening, he asked as to why I do such adventures. But it also became very memorable of my days in Manali as the thought of welcoming Vajpayee ji by showering flowers through paragliding was very exciting.
Many many congratulations to my dear brothers and sisters of Himachal for the inauguration of the Atal Tunnel. As I said earlier, I can see that a public meeting has been perfectly planned with social distancing. I have got an opportunity to acknowledge the greetings of the people who are raising their hands by maintaining complete social distancing. This is a very familiar place to me. I was not the kind of a person who would stay at a place for a long time. I used to make whirlwind tour. But I used to hang on as long as Atal ji would stay here during his visit. I would experience very closeness with all of you. There used to be many discussions regarding the development of Manali and Himachal Pradesh with him.
Atal ji was very much concerned about the infrastructure, connectivity and the tourism industry of this region.
Very often, he would recite his very popular poem. People of Manali have listened to it several times. Atal ji used to feel at home here and would love to spend his time at Parini village and love the people here and therefore he would share this in his poem:
मनाली मत जइयो,
राजा के राज में।
जइयो तो जइयो,
उड़िके मत जइयो,
अधर में लटकीहौ,
वायुदूत के जहाज़ में।
जइयो तो जइयो,
सन्देसा न पइयो,
टेलिफोन बिगड़े हैं,
मिर्धा महाराज में।
Don’t go to Manali;
In a king’s kingdom.
If you have to go;
Don’t go by air,
For, you would remain held up
In the airplane.
If you have to go,
You won’t get any message
As telephones are dead
In the rule of King Mirdha.
Atal ji, who used to like Manali very much, had a deep desire that the situation should change here, connectivity should improve. With this thought in mind, he had decided to construct a tunnel at Rohtang.
I am happy that Atal ji’s dream has been realized today. This Atal Tunnel may have shouldered the huge burden of a mountain (which is almost two kilometer high above this tunnel). This tunnel has now taken upon itself the huge burden which once used to be shouldered by the people of Lahaul-Spiti. In a way, this tunnel has removed the burden of the people here. It is a matter of satisfaction, pride and joy that people would now be able to move to Lahaul-Spiti easily.
The day is not far when the tourists would have their breakfast of ‘Siddu’ in Kullu-Manali and have ‘Dumar’ and ‘Childe’ in their lunch in Lahaul. This was not possible earlier.
Fine, there is Corona, but the country is slowly unlocking also. I am hopeful that tourism will also pick up pace like other sectors in the country and there would be grand preparations for the Kullu Dussehra.
A big decision has also been taken for the people of Himachal besides the Atal Tunnel. The 66-Megawatt Dhaulasidh Hydro Electric Project in Hamirpur has been approved. The country will not only get electricity from this project, many youth of Himachal will also get employment.
Himachal Pradesh also has a huge share in the scheme of things to build modern infrastructure throughout the country. Several projects related to rural roads, highways, power projects, rail connectivity and air connectivity are currently under way in Himachal Pradesh.
Work in Kiratpur-Kullu-Manali road corridor, Zirakpur-Parwanoo-Solan-Kaithlighat road corridor, Nangal Dam-Talwara rail route and Bhanupali-Bilaspur Beri rail route is going at full pace. Efforts are on to complete these projects as soon as possible so that they can start serving the people of Himachal.
Besides the basic amenities like road and electricity; mobile and internet connectivity are also very important to make the life of the people of Himachal Pradesh comfortable. This has become a major requirement for tourist destinations. Being the hilly region, several places in Himachal have to face the problem of network. To find a permanent solution, work has begun to lay optical fiber in 6 lakh villages of the country. This would be completed in the next 1,000 days on a mission mode. Under this project, there would be Wi-Fi Hotspots in all the villages and the households will get internet connections. With this, Himachal is going to be benefited in every way, whether it is the education of the children, medicines for patients or income through tourism.
It is the constant endeavor of the government to ensure ease of living of people and to see that they get their full benefits of their rights. For this, almost all government services have been digitalized. Now, one does not need to make rounds of offices for services like salary and pension.
Earlier our young colleagues and retired people from remote areas of Himachal had to run around officials and politicians for attestation of documents. Now the requirement of attestation of documents has been almost done away with.
Just imagine, earlier the entire day used to be spent for payment of electricity and telephone bills. Now you are being able to do this from your house with one click. Now all the facilities related to banks, for which one had to visit the banks earlier, are easily available at homes.
With many such reforms, there is saving of time and money and also the scope of corruption has ended. During the period of Corona, hundreds of crores of rupees have been deposited in the Jan Dhan account of more than 5 lakh pensioners and about 6 lakh women beneficiaries in Himachal Pradesh through one click. More than 1.25 lakh poor sisters have got free cylinders under Ujjawala.
The reforms that are being carried out in the country have upset some people who have always worked for their own political interests. Century has changed, but not their vision. Now the century has changed and the thinking also needs to be changed. We have to change the country according to the new century. Those people who created the system of middlemen and brokers are perturbed now. The people of Himachal are fully aware about the conditions of farmers caused by the people who encouraged middlemen.
You also know that Himachal is one of the biggest producers of fruits in the country. Tomatoes and mushrooms of Himachal meet the needs of several cities. But, what has been the condition? The apples which are bought from the farmers of Kullu, Shimla or Kinnaur at 40-50 rupees per kg are sold in Delhi at 100-150 rupees per kg. Where does the difference of 100 rupees go? Neither the farmer nor the buyer ever benefited. This is the loss of the farmer as well as the person who buys in the cities. Not only this, our farmer friends know that the prices fall drastically as the apple season approaches the peak. Farmers having small orchards are the worst hit.
Those protesting against the agriculture reforms bills want the status quo, so that the people should live the way they lived in the previous century. But the country is committed for the change. And therefore, historical reforms have been made in the laws for the development of the agricultural sector. They also thought about these reforms, they also had the same thinking, but they lacked courage. We have the courage. Elections were priorities for them. For us, the priority is our country, our farmer, the bright future of our farmer and therefore, we take decisions for the progress of the farmers.
Now if small farmers want they can form their associations and sell the apples in other states directly. They have got the freedom. If they get benefits in the local mandis (markets), through the earlier system, that option is still there. It has not been eliminated. In fact, these reforms have been made for the maximum advantages of the farmers and orchard growers.
The central government is committed to increase the income of farmers and to fulfill their smallest of the needs related to agriculture. Under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, about 1 lakh crore rupees have been deposited in the accounts of about 10.25 crore farmer families of the country so far. And this includes 9 lakh farmer families in Himachal who have got about 1000 crore rupees.
Imagine, where would the money have gone and in whose pockets had the previous governments announced any package worth 1,000 crore rupees for Himachal. Then there would be attempts to make political gains out of it. But, here the money went to the accounts of small farmers and without any whimper.
Recently, a big reform has been undertaken in our country to provide rights to the labour force, particularly the women and daughters. The sisters and daughters of Himachal are always in the forefront of performing any difficult task in any sector. But till now, there were several sectors in which women were not allowed to work. The labour reforms that have been enacted recently provide the same right to salary and work to women which are already enjoyed by men.
The process of reforms will continue in order to awaken the confidence of every citizen of the country and to build a self-reliant India. We can’t make it to the new century with the rules and regulations of previous century. Notwithstanding the politics of selfishness by those opposed to the meaningful changes in the society and the systems, this country is not going to stop.
The dreams and aspirations of every youth of Himachal, and of the country, are paramount. And we will continue to take the country to new heights of development with those aspirations.
You can imagine the big change that will come about with this Atal Tunnel. Doors to several opportunities have opened. We should make maximum advantage of it.
Many many congratulations and best wishes to all of you.
This is the period of Corona. Himachal has taken good care of the situation. But still, keep yourself protected from this infection.
With gratitude to this abode of gods, the abode of Kanchan Nag, I got an opportunity to meet you all again. I could have met you animatedly had there been no corona. There are several familiar faces in front of me. But the situation is such that I am unable to meet you. But I am happy that I could see you. I have to leave soon. Therefore, with your permission, many many congratulations and thanks to you.