The Punjab government is all set to provide free religious tours to pilgrims from all 117 assembly constituencies of the state under the “Mukh Mantri Tirath Darshan Yatra Scheme” through special trains.
The first train under the scheme will be flagged off from the Amritsar railway station on January 1. More than 1,000 pilgrims will board the train from Attari to Nanded (Hazur Sahib) in Maharashtra. The pilgrims will get free food, transportation, lodging and boarding facilities on the six-day trip. All the expenses will be borne by the state government.
Presiding over a high-level meeting to review the preparations for the maiden run of the train, cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike said the scheme would be beneficial for pilgrims from the state as they could visit religious places and shrines across the country free-of-cost.
“Each train will carry more than 1,000 devotees. The first train from Attari to Nanded will be flagged off by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal,” he said.
Special religious trains will also connect Varanasi and Ajmer Sharif to Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Malerkotla, he said, adding that eight special trains from various railway stations in Punjab will leave for Nanded every month.
The minister said after its maiden run from Attari on January 1, another train would leave for Nanded from the Maur railway station in Talwandi Sabo on January 4. Pilgrims from Anandpur Sahib can board the special train to Nanded on January 8 and on January 11, pilgrims from Khadoor Sahib can avail of the service from the Tarn Taran railway station.
The train will leave from the Patiala railway station on January 15, Batala railway station on January 18, Muktsar railway station on January 22 and Beas railway station on January 25, said the minister.
He said the special train for Varanasi will leave from Jalandhar and Ludhiana railway stations on January 20 and 27, respectively. He said the special train to Ajmer Sharif will be flagged off from the Malerkotla railway station on January 29.
Principal secretary R Venkatratnam said the pilgrims have to furnish their identity proof and a fitness certificates from an authorised government medical institute before boarding the special trains. He said a district-level committee has been formed under deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat to assist devotees at the Amritsar railway station.