CAPT AMARINDER ASKS ‘CASH-RICH’ SGPC TO PAY $20 FEE TO HELP YELLOW CARD HOLDING PILGRIMS TO VISIT KARTARPUR SAHIB
Chandigarh, November 13: With footfalls at the Kartarpur Corridor reported to be quite low so far, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday asked the ‘cash-rich’ Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to pay the $20 per pilgrim fee for travel out of their own coffers, at least to the Yellow Card holders who simply could not afford to pay the amount.
Amid reports of confusion among pilgrims, the Chief Minister also urged the prime ministers of both India and Pakistan to waive off the passport condition for travel through Kartarpur Corridor and instead accept other forms of identity, including Aadhar card, Driving license etc. These should be acceptable since there was no requirement of visa to be stamped on the passport in any case, he added.
The Chief Minister said the low number of devotees reportedly crossing over to the historic gurdwara was not because of lack of interest among the people but because of the two conditions of passport and $20 fee. Lakhs of pilgrims were waiting to visit the Kartarpur Gurdwara on this historic 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji but were held back because of these problems, he added.
Though Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted, before the opening of the Corridor, that passport would not be needed for devotees to come through, the decision was not formalised, Captain Amarinder pointed out. He urged Imran, as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to resolve the problem by coming to an agreement to amend the MoU requirement for passport to travel through the Corridor. If pilgrims are unable to make full use of the Kartarpur Corridor then the whole purpose of this unique initiative on the part of the two governments would be defeated, he added.
Pointing to the lavish spends of the SGPC on holding separate programmes to commemorate the 550th Prakash Purb, the Chief Minister said it was evident the religious body was flush with funds. However, instead of flaunting their money to appease their ego and make a political point through this religious occasion, they should spend the same on supporting the devotees, especially the poor Yellow Card holders who simply did not have the money to pay the necessary fee to Pakistan for entering their territory to pay obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, he quipped.
“Why can’t the SGPC and their political masters, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and particularly the Badal family, shell out some money for the actual good of the community,” said Captain Amarinder. Given the huge claims of SAD president Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat Badal of being the protectors of the Sikh religion, the least they could do was ask the SGPC, which they control, to help out the poor pilgrims whose dream of visiting Kartarpur Corridor may otherwise never be realised,” he added.
As the religious body for the Sikh community, SGPC was responsible for ensuring the fulfilment of the long-cherished aspiration of the Sikhs, and in fact all devotees of the Great Guru, to pay their respects at the revered Kartarpur Gurdwara, said the Chief Minister. Considering the huge amounts they spent on setting up separate stages for the key events to commemorate the 550th Prakash Purb, it was evident that the SGPC could well afford to help out the pilgrims, he added.