My colleague in the Union Cabinet Shri Rajnath Singh ji, Himachal Pradesh’s popular Chief Minister Bhai Jai Ram Thakur ji, minister in my cabinet and Himachal’s young son Bhai Anurag Thakur, ministers in Himachal government, local representatives and my dear brothers and sisters of Lahaul-Spiti.
It has been a very pleasant experience to be with you after a long time. Many many congratulations and wishes to all of you for the Atal Tunnel.
This is a gift from Atal ji.
Many years ago, when I used to visit you as an activist, I could reach here after traveling a long distance from Rohtang. I have experienced and seen it myself how medicines, studies, and all avenues of income used to be affected due to closure of Rohtang Pass in the winters. Many of my friends from those days are still active. Some of the friends are no more with us now.
I remember vividly that I used to discuss and learn a lot from Thakur Sen Negi ji of Kinnaur. Negi ji has served Himachal a lot both as an official as well as a public representative. Perhaps, he lived up to 100 years or so? But he remained active till his last days. His personality was very energetic and inspiring. I would ask so many things to him and he would tell me so many things. He was witness to a long history. And he helped me a lot in understanding this entire region.
Atal ji was also very much aware of all the problems of this region. These mountains were always dear to Atal ji. In order to lessen your difficulties, Atal ji had announced the construction of this tunnel when he came to Keylong in 2000. I still remember the festive atmosphere which prevailed in the region then. The resolve of a great public servant and the worthy son Tashi Dawa has also been realized. This has been made possible with the blessings of him and his many other friends.
Atal Tunnel has not only been a new dawn for the people of Lahaul, it will also change the lives of the people of Pangi. This nine-kilometer long tunnel has reduced the distance by 45-46 kilometers. Many friends in this region would never have imagined that this opportunity will come in their life time. These are the people who have seen the patients waiting in pain for a means during the winters and experienced the same pain. Today, they are satisfied that their children – sons and daughters – would not have to go through those painful difficulties.
Everybody is going to benefit from Atal Tunnel, whether they are farmers of Lahaul-Spiti and Pangi, those associated with orchard farming, herdsmen, students, service class, traders and businessmen. Now the crop of cauliflower, potato and peas of the farmers of Lahul will not decay and will reach the markets quickly.
Chandramukhi potato, which is the identity of Lahaul and I have also tasted, will get new markets and new buyers. Now, like new vegetables and new crops, the trend in this sector will grow rapidly.
Lahaul-Spiti is also a great producer of medicinal plants and hundreds of such herbs and many spices like asafoetida, kuth, black cumin seeds, saffron and patish. These products can become the identity of Lahaul-Spiti of Himachal and India in the world.
One more advantage due to Atal Tunnel is that now the students will not be required to migrate for their studies. This tunnel has not only reduced the distance but has made the life easier also.
There is a huge potential for tourism across the region. The Nature has also blessed the region and there are amazing possibilities of spiritual and religious tourism. Chandratal is no longer an issue of distance for the tourists and so is Spiti Valley. Be it Tupchiling Gompa, or Trilokinath, Lahaul-Spiti is now going to get a new essence as a confluence of Devdarshan and Buddhist philosophy. Rather, this is the route from where Buddhist philosophy spread and expanded to Tibet and other countries.
The Tabo Monastery would become more accessible to the World, situated in the Spiti Valley and an important centre of Buddhist education in the country. In a way, the entire region is also going to be a major centre for Buddhist followers of many countries in the world, including East Asia.
Obviously, this tunnel is going to connect the youth of the entire region with many employment opportunities. While someone will run a home stay, a guest house, a dhaba, a shop, there will be employment as a guide to many. Everything, including the handicraft, fruits and medicines
Atal Tunnel is also a part of the central government's resolution that the benefit of development should reach every part of the country, every person in the country. Otherwise, you recall what the situation was earlier?
There were many parts of the country like Lahaul-Spiti, which were left to fend for their problems. The simple reason was that these areas did not suit the political interests of some people.
In the past few years, there is a new approach with which the country is moving. Everyone is progressing with all and everyone’s trust. A major change has been brought about in the functioning of the government. Now, the schemes are not based on the number of votes in a region. Now, the effort is that no Indian is missed and left behind.
Lahaul-Spiti is the biggest example of this change. It is one of the first districts in the country where every household has been provided with piped water. The district is a symbol of how the Jal Jeevan mission is making people's lives easier.
Our government is working with a resolve to provide basic amenities to all the underprivileged –the exploited-the deprived and the tribals. Today a major campaign is underway to provide pure drinking piped water to more than 15 crore households in the country.
Even after so many years of independence, more than 18,000 villages in the country were forced to live in darkness. Today, electricity has reached these villages.
After decades of independence, toilet facilities have been made available in these areas. Not only this, LPG gas connections have been made available for cooking.
Now, efforts are being made to ensure better treatment for every region in the far-flung region of the country. Under Ayushman Bharat Scheme, the poor have also been provided free treatment upto Rs. 5 lakh.
More than 22 lakh poor siblings from Himachal Pradesh have also been ensured of these benefits. All these campaigns have also created a number of new employment opportunities in far flung areas of the country, benefiting the youth.
Once again, I congratulate all the brothers and sisters of Lahaul-Spiti and the Pangi Valley for the Atal Tunnel which will open new doors for development. This is my request and this is for every citizen that take care of yourself and your family in this difficult time of Corona. Use the mask and pay special attention to the cleanliness of your hands.
I again express my gratitude to all of you wholeheartedly for making me part of this historic event.