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Tight security ahead of Gandhi's visit

india Updated: Jun 25, 2010 11:18 IST

Security has been tightened in Himachal Pradesh ahead of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi's trip to Kullu district on Monday.

Gandhi, who also heads the Congress party, will lay the foundation stone of Rohtang Tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti district. She will then address a public rally.

"We have beefed up security," Deputy Commissioner BM Nanta said on telephone from Kullu town. He said a Special Protection Group (SPG) team reached Thursday to review security arrangements.

Superintendent of Police (Lahaul and Spiti) S.R. Rana said: "Patrolling has been intensified and special control rooms have been set up to tackle any emergency."

Lahaul and Spiti shares a border with Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. It also borders China.

The 475-km Manali-Leh National Highway 21 that passes through the Rohtang Pass will be closed for traffic during Gandhi's visit.

Nanta said no vehicle bound for Ladakh and Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti would be allowed beyond Kothi, about 30 km from Manali. Similarly, no traffic from Keylong towards Manali would be allowed that day.

The national highway is a major attraction for tourists.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his Jammu and Kashmir counterpart Omar Abdullah will be present at the stone-laying ceremony of Rohtang Tunnel.

The tunnel will pave the way for round-the-year road access to the Lahaul Valley in Lahaul and Spiti, which otherwise remains cut off by snow for half the year.

It's expected to be ready by 2015 and will serve as a nerve centre for the Indian Army to carry supplies to Ladakh.