As the much looked-for Kartarpur Corridor continued to witness low footfall of pilgrims even after 10 days of its opening, the political leaders in Punjab are seeking easing of the process to visit the gurudwara at the other side of the border from both Indian and Pakistani Governments.
Punjab Cabinet Minister and senior Congress leader Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Tuesday demanded the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal intervention urging him to ease the process for visiting Sri Kartarpur Sahib. At the same time, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to implement his “passport waiver announcement” besides removing the 20 dollars service fee condition.
Randhawa said that the “complex” process to visit Gurudwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of West Punjab in Pakistan is the biggest impediment for the Nanak Naam Leva Sangat, and it should be eased keeping in view their sentiments.
He appealed to the Prime Minister to intervene personally in the matter and issue orders for making the process simplified to enable the sangat to visit Gurudwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib.
The Minister also demanded the waiving of conditions pertaining to the police verification and applying in advance. The condition of passport must also be lifted and the issue needs to be taken up with the Pakistan Government, he added.
“After the news of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeting regarding waiving the passport condition got out, the confusion has increased for the sangat as when they began to fill the online forms, they encounter the column asking for passport details,” he pointed while appealing to the Prime Minister to direct the Union Home Ministry to do away with the passport details column.
“If the condition is still in force, then take up the issue with Pakistani counterpart,” he said adding that most of the pilgrims belongs to the advanced age groups who don’t have passports but they have a desire to visit Gurudwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib.
“The Home Ministry has imposed unnecessary conditions such as verification etc on the pilgrims applying for visiting Gurudwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib, whereas the Indians going to Pakistan via Wagah and other countries don’t have to encounter such issues,” he pointed out.
SUKHBIR URGES IMRAN KHAN TO IMPLEMENT PASSPORT WAIVER ANNOUNCEMENT, REMOVE $20 SERVICE FEE CONDITION
SAD president Sukhbir Badal on Tuesday asked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to waive the requirement of passport identification to access the Kartarpur Corridor besides asking him to do away with the 20 dollar service fee being levied on pilgrims.
“Though the Pakistan Prime Minister had announced that a passport would not be needed to gain access to the Kartarpur Corridor by Indian pilgrims and that any valid identify would suffice, the Pakistan army had clarified later that entry would be given on the basis of a passport based identity only,” he said.
Sukhbir asked Khan to instruct Pak Government officials to accept any valid identity except passports from the devotees. “Majority of people in the rural areas do not have passports. Moreover, making a passport for this visit alone amounts to an additional expenditure of around Rs 2,000. Most of the devotees plan to travel in family groups and this means an average family would have to spend at least Rs 8,000 on preparation of passports besides additional expenditure on reaching Dera Baba Nanak,” he said.
He added that if the 20 dollars service charge is also taken into account, an average family of four would have to spend around Rs 15,000 to visit Sri Kartarpur Sahib which is beyond the reach of under privileged sections of society.
Sukhbir said that even presently, passport was not needed except for identification purposes as no visa was being issued for the visit to Kartarpur Sahib.He also urged the Pak PM to waive off 20 dollars service fee being charged from pilgrims going to Sri Kartarpur Sahib through the Corridor. “The service fee is unjustified as it is against the basic tenets of Sikhism which stipulated that there should not be any obstacle in the way of ‘darshan’ of ‘Guru ka ghar’. Removal of this fee would be in keeping with the spirit behind establishment of the Corridor to allow ‘khule darshan deedar’ of the last abode of Sri Guru Nanak Dev,” he said.