The most ambitious Bhubhu Jot Tunnel project in Kullu district is hanging fire for the past several years. No progress has been made on the ground to construct the 3.2 km tunnel under Jot Pass in the region. It, however, becomes an issue during every election.
The construction of the tunnel will provide road connectivity between Kullu and Mandi via Lag valley, which will reduce the distance between Kullu and Dharamsala or Pathankot by nearly 57 km. The road will start from Kullu and join the Mandi-Pathankot National Highway at Ghatasni via Lag valley, Bhubu Jot and Shilh-Badhwani.
Sources said the state highways authority had prepared a draft alignment report of this project and sent it for Centre’s approval last year. But no approval has been received from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Kullu residents said during election time, both Congress and BJP leaders promise to get approval for this project on a priority, but to no avail. They said BJP MP Ramswaroop Sharma failed to make any progress despite having the BJP government at the Centre in the last five years.
Locals said three years ago, the PWD started the road-widening work from Kullu towards Lag valley, which caused a considerable loss to the property and agricultural land of people in the area.
Dalip Thakur, a resident of Lag valley, said: “Due to sluggish pace of road-widening work, landslides are frequently reported in the region, especially during the rainy season. The breast walls and retaining walls on the roadside have collapsed at several places, posing threat to residents’ lives. At many places, residential houses have developed cracks and people have been advised to vacate these. The compensation and rehabilitation for the loss of property is still awaited.”
He said since 2017, the PWD stopped the road-widening work on this road.
“People have strong resentment against BJP MP Ramswaroop Sharma because he failed to get approval for the project from the Centre during his tenure. In the last Lok Sabha election, he promised that he will get approval for this project on a priority if he comes to power. As a result, people elected him from Mandi. But he failed to fulfil his promise,” he said.
Kullu MLA Sunder Singh Thakur said: “I raised the issue in the Vidhan Sabha last year, but the state government and the BJP MP failed to get an approval from the Centre. It is said the preliminary survey report of the project was sent to the Centre six months ago for final approval, but there has been no response so far.”
Vijay Chaudhari, XEN State Highway, Joginder Nagar, said: “The draft alignment report of this project was submitted to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways last year. The final approval is still awaited. Thereafter, the DPR of this project will be prepared.”
BJP MP Ramswaroop Sharma on the other hand charged the previous Congress regime for the delay.
He said: “Former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh did not evince interest in this project. As a result, it could not make any headway till 2017. In 2017, when the BJP came to power, CM Jai Ram Thakur took the initiative. As a result, within a year, the draft alignment report of Bhubhu Jot Tunnel project was submitted to the Centre for approval, which will be approved soon.”
He said during his tenure as an MP, he had raised this issue with the Central government several times.
Will help the forces
As the Army convoy from Pathankot uses the road to reach Ladakh via Kullu-Manali, the tunnel will provide shortest and optional road for the forces. Having picturesque and virgin landscapes, the road will not only facilitate locals, but also develop tourism in the area. The area receives heavy snowfall, but the construction of the tunnel will provide all-weather road connectivity between Kullu and Mandi via Lag valley.