2020 Manali-Leh Road Status

Lahaul fears turning into Manali with Rohtang tunnel
The ambitious Rohtang Tunnel is set for inauguration in September-end, opening the doors of the world for Lahaul-Spiti throughout the year. But Hindi poet Ajey Kumar, who grew up on the other side of the Pass, is unhappy. In conversation with fellow Lahauli Ishan Marvel

Posted: Sep 20, 2020 07:50 AM (IST)
Updated : 9 hours ago

Ajey Kumar is a poet from Sumnam village in Lahaul. His poems have appeared in noted Hindi literary journals such as Pahal, Gyanodaya, Tadbhav, Akaar and Kathadesh.

Ishan Marvel hails from Marbal village in Lahaul. His debut book Exit One was published in 2018.

Tunnel in the Mountain | 1996
But just think Guruji
When there shall appear
a hole in its chest
And in this heaven shall enter
snakes and monkeys
and poisonous air
and the dirty intentions of the city
and filthy thoughts, Guruji
Even then you’ll paint them like this
and silent?

(Translated by Marvel from the original poem ‘Pahaad’ by Ajey)
Rohtang Tunnel | 2000
Shall you be

Atal Tunnel | 2020
So you didn’t listen
Mountain !

Ajey Kumar

Ishan Marvel

IM: A powerful poem like ‘Pahaad’ can often tell us more about a situation than a hundred factual books. Given that the Rohtang Tunnel is finally about to be inaugurated, could you share how you conceived the first stanza in 1996?
AK: Back then, everyone believed the tunnel was an empty dream. Very few people were actively fighting for it, and I was witness to these efforts, particularly by Tshering Dorjeji. Meanwhile, we organised an exhibition of paintings of Sukh Dass, who is fondly known as ‘Guruji’ across Lahaul, at Keylong. There were no portraits — just our mountains in all their silent, expressionless glory. It is these mountains that I’m referring to in the poem, for something clicked in my head at that exhibition, and the opening question emerged: ‘Par Zara Socho Guruji.’ But just think Guruji.

IM: Even if people were not fighting for it, they did want the tunnel, right?
AK: Of course. Who wants to be cut off from the world for six months in snow? Plus, the crops would reach the market and not go waste.
Connected, finally
Heavy snow on Rohtang Pass cuts off Lahaul-Spiti from the rest of the world for at least six months during winter. Opening of the tunnel (now called Atal Tunnel) would change that. It would ensure connectivity with Kullu throughout the year, making things easier for locals who have been bearing the brunt of the weather, especially in case of medical exigencies. Foundation stone of the project was laid in 2009 and work began two years later.

A vehicle makes its way through the tunnel.

IM: So why is the poet unhappy?
AK: The poet’s concerns are different. He feels the gravity of such things more acutely. And since action is not his domain, he can only express these feelings and raise questions even if he doesn’t have the answers. To raise them in such a piercing manner that people are forced to find answers, or at least think about them, that is my motive as a poet.
IM: How did you feel when PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee made the announcement in 2000?
AK: Vajpayee already supported the tunnel from a defence perspective, since it would provide an all-weather route to Ladakh. Then, in 1999, the Kargil War happened. Next year, the PM was in Keylong to make the official announcement. Amid all this, my poetic voice became trivial for I couldn’t find a single person who agreed with my views. Looking at the public consensus, I realised that perhaps it was the mountain’s own decision to get pierced. So all I could muster was that single line: ‘Pahaad, kya tum chhid jaoge?’

IM: You added another line this year, and there is a clear sense of hurt.
AK: I was and still am hurt that our mountains have been pierced. This abrupt model of development that we are blindly trying to implement across the world is especially harmful for vulnerable ecosystems and indigenous cultures like ours. Development must happen at a natural pace so that the people and the land get time to adapt. It’s not just a question of the environment, or loss of natural beauty and culture. I’m talking about losing our Lahauliyat.
IM: What do you mean by that?
AK: The essence of the people and the land. You can still find it in our peripheral villages. I have understood glimpses of it in the tales of Gyapo Gesar that we used to hear from our elders. I feel Gesar’s character embodies Lahauliyat — his innocence, sensitivity and presence of mind combined with his witty, carefree and romantic nature, and his antipathy towards the elite and his glorification of the ‘ordinary’. He embodies the best of what a rustic, pastoral consciousness can offer. To me, that is Lahauliyat.
IM: It’s sad that our generation missed out on these oral traditions.
AK: Then let me tell you a Gesar story about how Rohtang Pass came into existence. Once there was an evil king in Kullu, and it fell upon Gesar to go on his flying horse and destroy the tyrant. However, the Pir Panjal mountains were too high even for the magic horse. So, Gesar struck the mountains with his whip and Rohtang Pass came into being. As he raised his whip again, his aunt Kurman appeared from the heavens and stopped him. She explained that the Pass was enough, for if he struck the mountains again, Ling (Trans-Himalayas) and Mon (Indian Himalayas) would become one. So you see how our ancestors adapted the Trans-Himalayan epic to reflect their wisdom about maintaining limited connectivity with the outer world? It was a matter of preserving our Lahauliyat!

IM: Maybe that’s where the balance lies — embracing modernity on one’s own terms, according to one’s own context, and without letting go off one’s roots.
AK: Exactly! Now, we have undone our forefathers’ wisdom. And instead of just celebrating the practical gains, we should also be focussing on the negative prospects to try and find sustainable solutions. Not much is happening in that direction, and that’s what I feel sad about.
IM: You think Ling and Mon will become one now, as in, would Lahaul become another Manali?
AK: It is only a matter of time, depending on how our people and our leadership deal with this monster called ‘Vikas’.

Lahaul fears turning into Manali with Rohtang tunnel
Light at end of tunnel for Lahaul residents
With completion of project, region hopes to overcome winter woes
  • Posted: Sep 19, 2020 07:34 AM (IST)
  • Updated : 1 day ago
  • 989
Light at end of tunnel for Lahaul residents

Youths who worked for the Rohtang Tunnel being honoured.

Mandi, September 18
The Eco Tourism Society, Lahual and Spiti, and the Lahaul Utsav Samiti yesterday organised an event to honour those who have contributed to the completion of the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang. Among those felicitated were officials of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and local residents. Once inaugurated, the tunnel will provide all-year connectivity between Manali and Lahaul.

Before the construction of the tunnel, there was only one route to Lahaul and Spiti via Rohtang Pass. The 13,050-feet high pass receives heavy snow during the winter, cutting off the Lahaul valley from the rest of the state for six months every year. During this period, residents of the valley are dependent on a flight service provided by the state government.
Residents are waiting for the inauguration of the tunnel by the Prime Minister. They are hopeful that the tunnel will open new avenues of livelihood for them.
The Lahaul and Spiti District Congress Committee is also planning an event, in which all those who have contributed the project will be honoured.
Rigzin Samphel Heyreppa, president of the Eco Tourism Society, told The Tribune, “There has been a festive mood in the entire district ever since the BRO declared that the tunnel is ready for inauguration.”— TNS

Light at end of tunnel for Lahaul residents
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Afcons, in a joint venture with Strabag, has constructed the world's longest motorable tunnel 3,000 m above sea level. The Atal Tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46km and shrink travel time by 4-5 hours. Situated in the Pir Panjal ranges, in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, the project was fraught with danger. Afcons salutes all engineers and workers who endangered their lives to make this epic tunnel possible.
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People went via Rohtang Pass to Leh successfully.
But Ladakh is not much open.
Many places are closed.
You can't enjoy like earlier.
Permit needed for Khardungla.

Someone tried Darcha Route towards Zanskar also but it is for 4x4 only.
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हिमाचल: छह महीने बाद आज खुलेंगे मनाली के होटल -