IRB Infrastructure Owner SRI NAGAR : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated India’s longest and Asia’s first bi-directional road tunnel at Battal Ballian in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district. The 10.89 km Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway would reduce travel time by about 2 hours, cutting short the distance by over 30 km.
Speaking at a time when youth from the region have been attacking security forces during encounters with militants, the Prime Minister said, “Some misguided youngsters are pelting stones, but here, the youth of Kashmir are using the same stones to build infrastructure.” Asserting that bloodshed would never help, he said youngsters would have to choose between tourism and terrorism.
“If the youth ignore the invaluable tradition of Sufi culture, they would lose the present and put their future into darkness… For the last 40 years, so much blood has been spilled, but nothing has been achieved. If tourism was the focus over the last 40 years, Kashmir would have been the hub of tourists,” he said, adding that the tunnel, which “is environment friendly and would help fight global warming”, would provide a boost to tourism in the region as it connects Kashmir to the rest of the country.
“The beauty of this land (Jammu and Kashmir) can draw so many people — this would also bring economic growth. People from across the country who were scared of visiting the Valley due to bad roads would now not have to worry about accidents,” he said, and remarked that the tunnel has been built in accordance with the best standards in the world.
Taking a dig at Pakistan, Modi said “those across the border can’t even take care of themselves”, and added that he wants to show the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) how the region progresses. “Let them see what development is,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister also extended his gratitude towards Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and said, “I congratulate her government and her colleagues. Earlier, packages announced by the Central government remained only on paper and never saw the light of day.”
Meanwhile, normal life was affected in the Valley due to a strike called by separatist groups against the Prime Minister’s visit. Most shops, business establishments and fuel stations were shut in Srinagar, where public transport stayed off the roads.