After dedicating the 9.2-km Atal Tunnel to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lt Gen Harpal Singh to start preparing for the underground tunnel at Shinku La. The passageway will ensure that the Indian military (and civilians in peace-time) get an all-weather road to Ladakh via Darcha-Padam-Nimu route in the next three years.
Prime Minister Modi had a detailed discussion with the BRO chief at the Atal Tunnel site, sources said. The prime minister asked the BRO head to expedite road infrastructure on the border areas so that Indian troops could patrol up to the last point.
At one point, Lt Gen Harpal Singh told the prime minister that road construction in India was a classic example of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” as no foreigner has helped BRO in construction since the March 2020 lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the prime minister wanted to know the details of the Seri nullah ingress that held up the Atal Tunnel project, he heard the full brief on the Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis. The BRO has metalled 100km of this road. It is likely to complete another 200km in the next three years along with a 4.5 km tunnel under the over 16,000 feet high Shinku Pass.
BRO has decided to validate the new axis this winter by keeping it snow-free for the army’s logistics movement. The prime minister inspected the whole 9.2 km of Atal tunnel on an open jeep twice and got down in between to understand the different points.
Singh told the prime minister that the BRO would finish the Sela Tunnel en route strategic Tawang in the next three years. Prime Minister Modi had laid the tunnel foundation on 10 February 2019. The Rs 687 crore project involves a fresh cut of 12 km road and a 3 km tunnel under the Se La, which saw action with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the 1962 war.
While the BRO chief briefed the prime minister about Darcha-Nimu road and Se La tunnel, the organisation is making plans to cut across through glaciated Saser La in Siachen sector to link it with Murgo-Daulet Beg Oldi axis. Once done, neither China nor Pakistan can threaten supplies to the last post at the Karakoram Pass.