In a New Year gift to Sikh pilgrims, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday flagged off the first train under Mukh Mantri Tirath Darshan Yatra scheme from the Amritsar railway station to the holy town of Nanded in Maharashtra.
The train, flagged off around 10:45 am is scheduled to reach Nanded at 4 am on Sunday.
The scheme aims at providing free train travel facility to Sikh pilgrims (constituency-wise) for visiting holy towns across the country.
After the flag-off, Sukhbir boarded the train and personally met the devotees. He asked them to give a feedback on arrangements being made for them.
90% passengers Akalis
Of the 1,025 pilgrims on board from Attari constituency, nearly 90% were Akalis. They were seen shouting pro- Shriomani Akali Dal slogans and heaping praises on Badal for the initiative.
“We are thankful to the state government which has provided us a free travel facility to Takht Huzur Sahib in Nanded,” said Joginder Singh, an Akali worker and resident of Pandori Waraich village.
Sub-divisional magistrate Rajesh Sharma, who is accompanying the pilgrims, said the train would depart from Nanded on January 4 at 11.00 pm and reach Amritsar around noon on January 6 .
The SDM said each coach has a dedicated nodal officer besides security staff and officials of Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.
“It’s a free-of-cost journey for pilgrims. The scheme involves free boarding and lodging facilities, food and transportation,” revealed Amritsar deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat.
Social welfare minister and Attari MLA Gulzar Singh Ranike and family are also accompanying the devotees.
Earlier, Sukhbir said 11 more ‘Tirth Yatra’ trains would be flagged off by February this suyear.
Under the plan, about 1,000 persons from each of the 117 constituencies have been selected for these religious tours. The deputy commissioners concerned have screened and selected the beneficiaries under the scheme. An amount of Rs 187 crore has been earmarked for the scheme.
Sukhbir said apart from trains to famous Sikh shrines, two trains to Varanasi from Ludhiana and Jalandhar, respectively,and one to Ajmer Sharif from Malerkotla will also start in January.
No political motive behind ‘Tirath Yatra’ scheme: CM
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has said there is any political motive behind the ‘Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra scheme’. Interacting with mediapersons on the sidelines of a religious function at the Bhagtanwala grain market on Thursday, Badal said the sole aim of the scheme was to enable the Punjabis to undertake pilgrimage to holy cities across the country.