Gauchar (Uttarakhand): In the absence of UPC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi and Union Defence Minister A K Antony along Minister of State for Railways KH Muniyappa laid the foundation stone of the Rishikesh-Karanprayag rail project in the Chamoli district here on Wednesday.

Gandhi, who was earlier scheduled to lay the foundation of the ambitious project of the Centre, was not present in the event due to minor illness.

Addressing a public gathering in the historic Gauchar maidan, Antony acclaimed the rail project to be a giant step towards the path of development of the state as well as the country.

He also expressed his hope for the early land allocation to start the project soon.

Echoing the similar views, Trivedi said “The historic project will not only expedite the development process of the region, but will also immensely contribute from the perspective of the nation’s security.”

Acknowledging the state’s valuable contribution in the defence sector, Antony said that the country can never forget contribution of the people of Uttarakhand.

Munniyappa acclaimed the day to be significant in the history of the state.

The project is also significant from the perspective of tourism.

It will encourage tourists to enthrall the beauty of the Himalayan state. The project which is expected to be completed in five years would connect the backward Garhwal region with the rest of the country.

Moreover, it would cut the arduous eight-hour road journey between the holy city of Rishikesh and Karanprayag to just four hours, hence, contributing in boosting tourism in the state.