Taking a leave out of some of the best examples of underground tunnels in countries like USA, Poland and France, Himachal Pradesh has decided to implement fool-proof security and traffic management at the newly inaugurated Atal Rohtang Tunnel.
Aimed to provide all weather and round-the-year connectivity to the people of Lahaul-Spiti, the Tunnel’s importance for mobility of the Indian army to Leh-Ladakh region has raised greater concerns about its 24x7 safety and a very high degree of security against anti-sabotage and terror threats.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Tunnel on October 3.
Three road accidents inside the tunnel within 72 hours from its inauguration, have elevated the Kullu district administration’s concerns for safety.
Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu ,who last month had set-up a Board of Officer (BOO) led by Daljit Thakur, Inspector General of Police CID (Security) to suggest comprehensive security plan and traffic mobility system for the Tunnel today sent a 18-page proposal to the state government, based on the BOO’s 12 specific recommendations.
The proposal has references to studies made by Thakur team on Jammu’s Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (Chenani-Nashri) Tunnel, Federal Highways and some of the landmark tunnels in Australia, Norway, Poland, France and UK.
“There are several sensitive features attached to Atal Rohtang Tunnel, which Himachal Pradesh government can’t overlook on Tunnel safety plans. It’s location on the Manali-Leh axis, strategic importance apart from being the World’s longest tunnel at an altitude above 10,000 feet, tourists influx as being biggest attraction and top of all as being the pride of Nation status makes it an international hotspot” Kundu told Outlook ,when contacted .
The DGP, who himself had camped at Manali and had conducted his own studies and discussions with top officials of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), said the plan prepared by the police involves a ‘round-the-clock’ security on both ends, deployment of additional police personnel, including a commando unit, beside setting up two special police stations on each side i.e. Dhundi, the South Portal (Manali) and village Teling (Sissu) its north Portal (Lahaul-Spiti).
The man power requirement projected by the police include; Additional SP who will be in-charge of the overall Tunnel security and traffic management, four inspectors, 19 Sub-inspectors, 40 head constables and 116 constables. The Additional SP will work under Superintendent of Police, Kullu.
The police have also projected its requirement of a fleet of different vehicles including TATA Storme SUV and arms, equipment and wherewithal like land for construction of police stations etc.
The police have also asked the government to declare the road between Bahang and the Atal Tunnel as no-stoppage road. It has also asked for the installation of multipurpose barriers, CCTV cameras and Retractable Bollard system near the Tunnel entry points. Other requirements projected also include creating a full-fledged fire prevention system, crash evacuations beside Disaster Management and Sabotage Pretension system.
A senior government official, when contacted said, “security of the tunnel and traffic management system has to be in place. The law and order being a state subject, we can’t just wait for something to happen and respond. The BRO’s job is over and now it’s our responsibility to secure the tunnel and facilitate its usages as well as security”.