Punjab deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal flagged off the first train from Amritsar railway station for pilgrimage to Nanded in Maharashtra on January 1.
The train was flagged off at around 10.45 am on Friday and it was scheduled to reach Nanded on Sunday morning at around 4.00 am.
After inauguration, deputy CM also boarded the train to meet the devotees travelling by it and interacted with them in person to know if they were happy with the arrangements made.
Travellers came forward to thank him and get selfies and pictures clicked with him.
Proper arrangements at railway station
Tea and snacks were served to the travellers. Many stalls were also installed outside the station and there were sevadars bestowing siropas (scarf or a length of cloth bestowed on someone as a mark of honour) to travellers and provided them with simranas (rosary). Proper security arrangements were made at the station.
Social welfare minister and Attari MLA Gulzar Singh Ranike also accompanied the devotees with his family.
Majority of travellers were Akali workers
The train was carrying around 1025 pilgrims and it was observed that more than 80 % of them were Akalis and were spotted shouting loud slogans of ‘Shiromani Akali Dal Zindabaad’ and many were spotted praising Badals and their initiative.
“We are thankful to the state government for launching its ambitious Mukh Mantri Tirath Darshan Yatra scheme under which we have been given free of cost journey to one of our important Takhts. I am proud to be an Akali but I feel these kinds of initiatives should not only be taken near elections. Rather it should be a regular affair,” said one of the pilgrims on board - Joginder Singh from Pandori Waraich village.
Train returning back to Amritsar January 6
While SDM Rajesh Sharma, who was among the pilgrims, informed that they would be departing from Nanded on January 4 at 11.00 pm and would reach Amritsar January 6 at 12.00 pm.
Sharma also said that each coach had a dedicated nodal officer besides security staff and officials of Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.
Free of cost journey to pilgrims
With the Assembly elections only a year away, the SAD-BJP government gives a free of cost journey to pilgrims.
The pilgrims were not charged anything for the journey besides the boarding and lodging in Nanded. As the scheme was being implemented constituency-wise, those on board the inaugural train were residents of the Attari assembly constituency.
“It’s a free-of-cost journey. The scheme involves boarding and lodging facilities, food during the journey, and transportation before and after the tour,” said deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat.