Chandigarh, November 15
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request Pakistan to revise the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries and remove the clause which requires devotees to carry passport to access the Kartarpur Corridor.
In a letter to the PM, Badal also sought simplification of the documentation and verification process. He said lakhs of Sikh pilgrims wanted to visit Kartarpur Sahib but the cumbersome procedure and the requirement of passports were coming in the way of their visit to the holy site.
“Instead of 5,000 pilgrims slated to visit Kartarpur Sahib, the figure is in few hundreds as majority of devotees who want to go on the pilgrimage do not have passports. The devotees are demanding this clause be struck down,” Badal said according to a statement released here.
As per the MoU, a passport is required to undertake the journey even though it was not being stamped and an entry/exit slip was being issued to all pilgrims, he said.
“A passport is also not needed because restricted access is being given to pilgrims confined to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib only,” he pointed out.
Badal said there were “confusing signals” from Pakistan on this issue.
“Though Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that a passport was not required for pilgrims, the military establishment has asserted that this is a pre-condition and only pilgrims with valid passports are being allowed to undertake the pilgrimage,” he said.
The SAD president said he has received representations from pilgrims for removal of this condition.
“People from rural areas and especially the old feel making a passport is an unnecessary expenditure since they are not likely to undertake a foreign visit,” he said.
Also, the devotees are likely to travel as family units, and when the expenses on making passports and the service charge of USD 20 (approximately Rs 1,450) per devotee are factored in, the total expenditure per family unit is likely to come around to Rs 20,000, Badal said.
“Keeping these facts in mind, I urge you to take up the issue with the Pakistan government so that the MoU between both countries can be revised and the condition for possession of a passport by a pilgrim is removed altogether,” he suggested to the prime minister.
He also suggested that pilgrims be allowed to show identity proofs like Aadhaar Card in lieu of passports.
The corridor linking the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, with Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur, was inaugurated on Saturday. — PTI
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