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Motorists tunnelling their way to accidents by taking selfies in Atal Tunnel

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the tunnel, beneath the majestic Rohtang Pass on October 3, three accidents were reported with the motorists driving recklessly.

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Manali, Oct 5 : Motorists are tunnelling their way to accidents by combining selfies with reckless driving while zooming through the 9.02-km long horseshoe-shaped Atal Tunnel, the world’s longest motorable tunnel, in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the tunnel, beneath the majestic Rohtang Pass on October 3, three accidents were reported with the motorists driving recklessly.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a wing of the Defence Ministry that excavated the tunnel at an altitude of 3,000 m or 10,000 feet with sheer hard work and determination in a decade, on Monday blamed the local authorities for not deploying the police to monitor the movement of motorists.

However, with the raising of serious objections by the BRO, the state government has now deployed the police after 48 hours.

BRO Chief Engineer K.P. Purushothaman told IANS that an official communication to provide forces to regulate the movement of the traffic was sent to the Chief Minister’s Office on July 3 and to the local administration on October 3.

The letter, accessed by IANS and addressed to the Advisor-cum-Principal Private Secretary to the Chief Minister, clearly specified the requirement of police.

Also, the BRO asked the civil authorities to station fire brigade personnel at the tunnel.

“Three accidents were reported in a single day on October 4. The cause of the accidents was largely reckless driving,” he said.

He said the CCTVs recorded that a few motorists stopped their vehicles midway while crossing the tunnel to take selfies.

“No one is allowed to stop the vehicle midway and no overtaking is allowed despite the tunnel being double-lane, Purushothaman added.

The BRO in another missive to the local authorities on October 3, the day the tunnel was to be inaugurated, reminded them to deploy security and fire engines at the tunnel.

To prevent a “lone-wolf” attack, the BRO has not allowed the movement of vehicles through the tunnel carrying inflammable items such as petroleum, oil, lubricants and liquefied petroleum cylinders and explosives.

The tunnel will be closed daily for two hours for maintenance — in the morning from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and in the evening from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

During the closure period, traffic will not be allowed beyond Dhundi, near here, from the south portal and ahead of the Chandra bridge at the north portal to avoid congestion near both the tunnel ends.

The 9.2 km-long horseshoe-shaped single-tube, two-lane tunnel has been constructed under the 3,978 metre Rohtang Pass in the Pir Panjal range, some 30 km from here.

The Atal Tunnel, a dream of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and named after him posthumously, has shortened the distance between Manali and Keylong, the headquarters of Lahaul-Spiti, by 46 km, reducing the travel time by nearly three hours. It has also ensured all-weather connectivity.

With a maximum speed limit of 80 km per hour, the tunnel is capable to take traffic of 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks per day.

People in the landlocked Lahaul Valley, who are largely Buddhist and earn their livelihood by growing a single crop of potatoes, peas and exotic vegetables, believe the Atal Tunnel will bring economic prosperity to the otherwise snow-bound, inhospitable region.

Before the tunnel construction, the Rohtang Pass was the only gateway to Lahaul towards Manali. The pass normally remained closed for five months every winter owing to heavy snowfall.

The construction contract of the tunnel was awarded to Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India-based Afcons Infrastructure and Austria’s Strabag.

The Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) has designed mechanical structures to ensure the safety of motorists by countering avalanches on both ends of the tunnel that remain under snow even during peak summer.

Engineers of SASE, a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, said self-escape snow galleries have been erected for the safety of motorists after studying the local dynamics of avalanches like force and velocity.

The tunnel’s foundation stone was laid by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010, in the Solang Valley near Manali, some 570 km from the national capital.

The completion of the Atal tunnel is a key element in the Defence Ministry’s attempts to make the entire 475 km-long Manali-Keylong-Leh highway, used by the armed forces to reach forward areas in Ladakh bordering China and Pakistan, motorable almost round the year.

Cities

Gujarat govt renames ‘dragon fruit’ as kamalam

It should be noted that the lotus is the symbol of the BJP and the state BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar is also named ‘Shri Kamalam’.

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Gandhinagar Jan 20: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, while interacting with the media on Tuesday, said that the government has applied for a patent to change the nomenclature of dragon fruit to ‘Kamalam’.

According to the CM, the word dragon for the fruit sounded inappropriate and so the Gujarat government had decided for the fruit to be called as Kamalam.

While interacting with the media on Tuesday during the launch of the Chief Minister Horticulture Development Mission, Rupani said, “We have applied for the patent of the Dragon fruit to be called as Kamalam. But as of now, we the Gujarat government have decided to call the fruit as Kamalam.”

“Even though the fruit is known as dragon fruit, it doesn’t sound appropriate. The word Kamalam is a Sanskrit word and the fruit does have the shape of the lotus, so we have decided to call it Kamalam, and there’s nothing political about it,” Rupani added.

According to the CM, the fruit has long since been grown as a form of cactus in the country. “Nobody has to be alarmed by the word Kamalam,” Rupani added.

It should be noted that the lotus is the symbol of the BJP and the state BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar is also named ‘Shri Kamalam’.

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Another fake social media news racket on temple attack busted

“Accused Peraka Venkateswara Rao, 35, was convicted in the case and sentenced to eight months in jail on June 23, 2015,” the official said.

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Fake News

Amaravati, Jan 20: Police in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district on Tuesday busted another fake news racket regarding temple attack in Eluru town and clarified that the Anjaneya Swamy idol incident was an old one.

“It came to our notice that some persons are using this 2014 incident as propaganda material to spread fake news on the social media,” said a district police official.

Police later registered a case under Sections 153-A and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Police clarified that the Anjaneya Swamy idol incident occurred in 2014 and a case was registered then under Sections 295 and 427 of the IPC at Eluru town police station.

“Accused Peraka Venkateswara Rao, 35, was convicted in the case and sentenced to eight months in jail on June 23, 2015,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Prakasam district police arrested one more person for allegedly dubbing the damage due to corrosion to the Singarayikonda temple arch idols as an ‘attack’.

In this particular case, police identified 33 persons for spreading false information on the social media, of whom six were arrested from different places in the southern state.

Prakasam district Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal on Tuesday visited multiple places to strengthen surveillance system, 24×7 beat and patrol systems for the security of all temples and religious places.

He met with members of village and mandal defence committees and gave suggestions on their security.

On Tuesday evening, Director General of Police Goutam Sawang held a videoconference with all districts police officials over the temple incidents in the state.

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Gurugram: Farmers to hold tractor rally ‘rehearsal’ on Wednesday

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Tractor March Delhi

Gurugram, Jan 20: The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha in Gurugram has announced that they will conduct a tractor rally ‘rehearsal’ in Gurugram on Wednesday ahead of Republic Day, in support of the farmers’ protests against the three farm laws.

SKM president Chaudhary Santokh Singh said that on Wednesday the rehearsal of the tractor rally will begin from the Bajghera flyover and will end at the protest site on the Delhi-Jaipur highway.

About 100 tractors will take part in the rehearsal. All tractors will have Morcha members present and will carry the national flag.

“The central government is aware of the flaws in the agricultural laws but is not ready to accept its mistake and is continuously harassing the innocent farmers at several borders of the national capital. The government must let go of its arrogant behaviour and roll back the black laws,” Singh said.

He said that on January 26, the farmers will join Republic Day by affixing the tricolour in front of their tractors and will proceed towards the national capital if permitted.

The protesting farmers said that it will be good if the Centre repeals the farm laws immediately, because the farmer movement has become a mass movement and people of other classes have also started supporting the farmers.

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