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Journey of renaming of Chenani-Nashri Tunnel as Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Tunnel

Chenani-Nashri Tunnel has recently been renamed after Shyama Prasad Mukherjee but its foundation was laid under the ruling UPA government in July 2011 by the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The original cost estimated to build the tunnel was Rs 2,520 crore but it later escalated to a total of Rs 3,720 crore.

The first deadline for the project completion was set to be May 2016 but owing to multiple factors, it got delayed every time and the finally the tunnel was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd April 2017. The construction involved nearly 1,500 engineers, geologists and labourers, besides skilled workers. The National Highways Authority of India has spent Rs.3, 720 crore on the project.

The 'Chenani-Nashri Highway Tunnel' on National Highway 44 is not only India's longest highway tunnel but also Asia's longest bi-directional highway tunnel. The tunnel is 9.25 km long officially making it the longest road tunnel in India. It is a two-lane tunnel located at an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet in difficult Himalayan terrain.

The main features of the tunnel includes two tubes that run parallel to each other - the main traffic tunnel of diameter 13 m and a separate safety or escape tunnel of diameter 6 m alongside. Despite having been excavated in such geographic conditions, both tubes are completely waterproof. It also has smart features such as an integrated traffic control system; surveillance, ventilation and broadcast systems; fire fighting system; and SOS call-boxes at every 150 metres.

The tunnel bypasses 44 avalanche and landslide-prone spots on the highway. It is an "all-weather" tunnel and enables an increase in trade and tourism in the state. The tunnel also has parking spots in case of vehicle breakdowns.

This two-lane tunnel reduced the distance between Chenani and Nashri by 30 km and hence travel time is cut by two hours between Jammu and Srinagar.

This tunnel has recently been renamed as Shyama Prasad Mukherjee tunnel by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Union Minister of State for PMO Dr Jitendra Singh on 24th October 2019.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was an Indian politician, barrister and academician, who served as the Minister for Industry and Supply in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet. Owing to differences, he quit Indian National Congress and founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor to the Bharatiya Janata Party, in 1951 so he is also regarded as the founder of BJP. Article 370 was strongly opposed by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee as he considered it a major threat to national unity.

Earlier in 2017, Dr Jitendra Singh had proposed to the State government for naming the tunnel on Dr. Mukherjee's name but the proposal was objected by then Chief Minister and People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on the ground that it would generate controversy.

While speaking at the renaming ceremony of the Tunnel on Thursday, Dr. Jitendra Singh recalled some of the incidents related to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

He said, "Around 66 years ago on May 11, 1953, Mukherjee was arrested from Lakhanpur in an illegal manner without any FIR, chargesheet or warning and was taken to Srinagar through this Chenani-Nashri road. And after Mukherjee's death on June 23, 1953 his mother wrote to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to hold an enquiry into his death. But due to some reasons the then Prime Minister Nehru did not pay heed to that letter, no enquiry was done."

He added, "We are in a different era now, it is Modi's government. Although, the lapse in probe cannot be compensated yet the renaming of 'Chenani-Nashri Highway Tunnel' on his name is a tribute to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. The lapse on part of Nehru government has been atoned by Modi government"

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari also termed the renaming decision as historic and called it a humble homage to Dr Mukherjee from the Centre government.

The Modi government paid a fitting tribute to Jan Sangh ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who had sacrificed his life for ‘Ek Vidhaan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishaan' (One Constitution, One Head and One Symbol) in Jammu and Kashmir in 1953.

The decision to rename the tunnel was taken over two months after abrogation of the provisions of Article 370.

Information source: Wikipedia and government websites



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Hardeep Bali