With no information of the instructions beforehand and the lack of on-the-spot facilities, visitors to the Wagah Joint Check Post (JCP) are a harassed lot as they not allowed to carry their handbags or other belongings inside the premises during the daily evening retreat ceremony conducted jointly by the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers.
It is only when they reach the main entrance gate of the Wagah Joint Check Post that they come to know of these instructions.
The only option the visitors are left with is either to go back to their vehicles to drop their belongings or put them at the locker run by a private individual, a tea vendor.
Those who have travelled down from Amritsar city on public transport have no option but to avail the drawer facility.
Interestingly, the locker has been placed in the open and fixed to a tree. However, preference is given to women's handbags.
"We charge Rs 20 to Rs 30 per locker. We are not responsible for anything that may go missing from a visitor's handbag or purse as the keys are with the visitor, who on return from the retreat ceremony collects the belongings," said Mandeep, the one running the locker.
He, however, points out that there was no complaint of theft in the past 15 years since the locker facility was started.
Ever since handbags and other belongings were banned inside the JCP during the retreat ceremony in the late nineties, the state government or the Punjab Tourism Development and Promotion Board (PTDPB) have not done anything to solve the problem.
"If a semi-literate person like me can think of solving the problem, then why can not the ministers and the officers?" he averred.
Instead of appreciating the efforts put in by this youth from nearby Attari village, the government went about uprooting his kiosk in which he used to sell tea and other eatables.
Mandeep's stall was near to the JCP gate and was bulldozed in October 2011. Other 10 kiosks were uprooted in a row by the authorities.
"We were promised that our shops will be relocated. All we got was Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 compensation for each kiosk. The owner the land on which our shops were located got around Rs 30 lakh an acre," said Mandeep, whose father had opened the kiosk in the fifties at Wagah.
Mandeep and his colleagues continue to run their tea stalls from makeshift kiosks.
They fear that once the area gets developed, they may lose their livelihood.
The land on which these kiosks were once located was acquired in 2012 by the government for construction of a parking zone and for other tourist-related facilities.
A total of 12 acres of land was acquired by the government for which the landowners got handsome compensation.
Balraj Singh, district tourist officer, said, "The PTDPB is to develop facilities for tourists and visitors at Wagah. The work on the project is in full swing and will be completed soon."
However, the contractors supervising the project at the site admitted that it got delayed for various reasons. They said the project was quite unlikely to be completed this year.
The parking zone is to come up on 10 acres of land. In the remaining area, the government has planned a tourist reception centre, eating and relaxation joints, parks and a playing joint for children.
A number of private parking lots have come up on one side of the Amritsar-Wagah highway nearby the JCP.
The fee at these points is Rs 10 for a scooter/motorcycle, Rs 30 for a car, Rs 40 or Rs 50 for a Tempo Traveller or a van and Rs 80 for a bus. Officials concerned do not bother to check the rates.
With no check in place, the eatables are served at the kiosks and rehris here in gross violation of norms of hygiene and cleanliness.
While various food items are served stale, the charges for packaged stuff like chips and cold drinks are unreasonably high.
MATTER OF CONCERN
* The locker, run by a tea vendor, has been placed in the open and fixed to a tree
* Ever since handbags and other belongings were banned inside the JCP during the retreat ceremony in the late nineties, the state government or the PTDPB have not done anything for visitors' convenience
* The parking fee is Rs 10 for a scooter/motorcycle, Rs 30 for a car, Rs 40 or Rs 50 for a van and Rs 80 for a bus
* The eatables at kiosks are served stale and charges for packaged food are unreasonably high