CM hopes Pak will eventually revoke $20 fee on Kartarpur pilgrims

Batala, October 24: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday expressed hope that Pakistan would eventually understand the Sikh sentiment and tradition, which bars the community from paying to visit gurdwaras and temples, and would, in due course, waive off the $20 fee imposed on Indian pilgrims visiting Sri Kartarpur Sahib.

Even Emperor Akbar had lifted the Jaziya tax on non-Muslims, showing respect for secular sentiment, he pointed out, urging Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan to reconsider the $20 fee in the light of the Sikh customers. The Chief Minister did not find the comparison between this fee and the money charges by Saudi Arabia from Haj pilgrims to be apt in the present case, given the Sikhi tradition.


Talking to mediapersons here, the Chief Minister welcomed the signing of the agreement for the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor between India and Pakistan, which permits 5000 pilgrims to visit the historic gurdwara every day, from sun rise to sun set, either in groups or individually. Only the passport would be required as an identification document, with no visa needed for the visit, he pointed out, adding that NRI/OCI card holders would also be allowed to visit the gurdwara via the Corridor, which pilgrims can also travel on foot.

Captain Amarinder reiterated that he would personally lead an all-party delegation, along with former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife, as the first Jatha travelling through the Corridor. All MLAs, cutting across party lines, as well as SGPC members, had been invited by his government to join the Jatha, said the Chief Minister, adding that he did not believe in politicization of such a sacred event.

The Chief Minister said all arrangements on the part of his government were complete for the 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji and the state government would be announcing details of the final schedule of programmes and events in the next 3-4 days.

Captain Amarinder, along with his cabinet colleagues, earlier reviewed the progress of the various projects undertaken by the state government in connection with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the first Sikh Guru.

He also laid the foundation stone of the 109-km long circular ‘Prakash Purb Marg’ from Sultanpur Lodhi to Dera Baba Nanak, to be constructed by the state government at a cost of Rs 103 crore, besides announcing a new Rs 13 crore state-of-the-art bus stand for Batala. The 10-meter wide road will pass through Mundi Mor-Kapurthala-Sultanpur Lodhi-Beas-Baba Bakala and Batala.

Accompanied by Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, the Chief Minister said that in reverence of 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji the historic city of Batala would also get a complete facelift. He announced a slew of development projects for Batala including development and beautification Kasur Nallah. The Chief Minister said that this project would be taken up at par with Buddah Nallah of Ludhiana and Nallahs in Patiala. He also announced that the other demands raised by the Minister would be duly considered.

During his visit to Batala, the Chief Minister went to the nearly two century old Maharaja Sher Singh residence in the premises of Baring Union Christian College.

Prominent among others present on the occasion were PWD & Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla, SC BC Welfare Minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, Urban Development and Water Resources Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria, Industry Minister Sunder Sham Arora, PPCC President Sunil Jakhar, MLA Fatehjang Singh Bajwa, MLA Balwinder Singh Laddi, Ex MLA Ashwani Sekhri, CPS to CM Suresh Kumar, PS to CM Tejveer Singh, Divisional Commissioner B Purushartha, Deputy Commissioner Gurdaspur Vipul Ujwal, Chairman of Baring Union Christian College Rt. Rev. (Dr) PK Samanata Roy and Principal Prof Dr Edward Masih.