Harsimrat slams Pakistan for USD 20 fee, asks Punjab govt to bear it

www.tribuneindia.com

Chandigarh, October 21


Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday slammed Pakistan for its insistence on charging USD 20 as service fee from Indian pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, saying the neighbouring country has made a “business out of faith”.


“The $20 fee each charged by Pak for Kartarpur Sahib darshan is atrocious. How will a poor devotee pay this amount? Pakistan has made a business out of faith. @ImranKhanPTI’s statement that this fee will boost Pak’s economy & result in earning foreign exchange is highly shameful,” Harsimrat said a tweet.


Badal also urged the Punjab government to bear the financial burden of Pakistan’s  service fees on Sikh devotees visiting the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara on the pattern of similar service provided under the ‘Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra’ scheme, launched by Parkash Singh Badal during previous SAD-BJP tenure.


Previous state government had facilitated free travel for pilgrims to the Golden Temple, Nanded Sahib, Patna Sahib and other religious places.


In a statement here, Badal said the ‘Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra’ scheme was scrapped when the Congress government took over the reins.


“This scheme needs to be revived to allow the Punjab government to absorb the service charge of USD 20 being imposed by the Pakistan government on all pilgrims wishing to visit Sri Kartarpur Sahib during the 550th  Parkash Purb celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev,” said Badal.


Badal said other state governments were also facilitating travel of pilgrims to various religious places in the country.


“The Congress government should take up the responsibility of paying USD 20 which the Pakistan government is insisting on charging from pilgrims. This will go a long way in ensuring that the pilgrimage is within the reach of the underprivileged sections of the society,” added Harsimrat.


The Union minister also urged the Pakistan government to reconsider its decision of charging the service fee from pilgrims.


She said such 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 be profited from piety. It should not try to earn money from the pilgrims’ ‘aashtha’. This amounts to disrespecting sentiments of the Sikh community which is known for its service to humanity across the world,” she added.


Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too had earlier lashed out at Pakistan for demanding the USD 20 as service charge from Kartarpur Sahib pilgrims, saying it was tantamount to forcing pilgrims to buy “ticket” to visit the historic gurdwara.


During the third round of Indo-Pak meeting last month on the issue, India had expressed disappointment over Pakistan’s “persistent inflexibility” on the USD 20 service fee issue and had asked it to reconsider it.


In a major initiative last November, both India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor.


The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi river, merely about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.


Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while India is building it from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur to its border with the neighbouring country.


The corridor will be opened in November to coincide with Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations. PTI





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