Union food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to ensure free pilgrimage to Sri Kartarpur Sahib on the pattern of similar service provided to pilgrims under the Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra scheme by former CM Parkash Singh Badal during SAD-BJP tenure in Punjab.
In a statement, the Union minister said the Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra scheme under Parkash Singh Badal facilitated travel of pilgrims by bus to Sri Darbar Sahib besides travel by special trains to Nanded Sahib, Patna Sahib, Varanasi and Ajmer. She said the scheme was scrapped when the Congress government took over the reins of the state.
“This scheme needs to be revived to allow the Punjab government to absorb the service charge of $20 imposed by the Pakistan government on all pilgrims wishing to visit Sri Kartarpur Sahib during the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji,” she said.
Harsimrat said other state governments were also facilitating the travel of pilgrims to various religious places in the country.
“The Congress government should take up responsibility for paying the $20 charge which the Pakistan government is insistent on charging from each pilgrim. This will go a long way in ensuring the pilgrimage is within the reach of the under privileged sections of society”, she added.
The Union minister also urged the Pakistan government to reconsider its decision to waive off the $20 service charge. She said such kind of service charge to visit a religious place was unheard of anywhere in the world.
“Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that the service charge as well as creation of a religious hub will result in earning of foreign exchange for his country is quite shocking.
Pakistan should not seek to profit from piety. It should not try to earn money from the ‘aashtha’ (faith) of the pilgrims. This amounts to disrespecting the sentiments of the Sikh community which is known for its service to humanity across the world”, the SAD’s Member of Parliament from Bathinda said.