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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Kartarpur pilgrims sore at delay in online registration, not $20 service fee

On Monday, India said it had informed Pakistan that it will be ready to sign an agreement to operationalise the corridor even as it again called for the waiver of a service fee of $20 per pilgrim.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2019 06:22 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Labourers work at the  Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. It will be opened in November Sikh pilgrims.
Labourers work at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. It will be opened in November Sikh pilgrims. (REUTERS)
         

Devotees headed for Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan to attend the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak say they are not upset over the $20 fee for the pilgrims but the delay in online registration by the Union government.

On Monday, India said it had informed Pakistan that it will be ready to sign an agreement to operationalise the corridor even as it again called for the waiver of a service fee of $20 per pilgrim imposed by Islamabad.

Government officials had said on Sunday said the online registration of devotees visiting the historic gurdwara in Pakistan could not be started because the two countries could not agree upon on a number of issues, including the pilgrim fee.

On October 16, chairman of the Land Ports Authority of India and additional secretary of the ministry of home affairs Govind Mohan said the online registration for pilgrims visiting Kartarpur is expected to start on October 20.

Baba Sukhdeep Singh Bedi who lives in Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and claims to be a descendant of Guru Nanak, said: “Only a few days are left for the opening of the Kartarpur corridor but the delay in the online registrations process has upset devotees. It will be good if the process starts on time.”

“It is an international project. So everything should be done in advance to operationalise the corridor. Sikh devotes are desperate to visit Kartarpur through this corridor. So, their disappointment over the delay is natural,” said Kulwant Singh Ankhi, an Amritsar-based promoter of religious tourism.

The Punjab government insists that the delay in starting online registration is not a major worry.

“No need to panic as this is a petty issue. When governments of both the countries have decided to open the corridor, there is no need to worry. Delay in the registration process is not a big issue,” said Punjab animal husbandry, fisheries and dairy development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Gobind Singh Longowal said: “Disagreement between two countries on some issues is the main reason behind the delay but we want the issues be settled at the earliest.”

Ankhi brushed aside the pilgrim fee issue saying, “This is not an issue for Sikhs. They are ready to pay $20 for visiting the holy shrine across the border. You know Pakistan is poor country and it is facilitating citizens of the other country. So, we have no problem with the charges and the Indian government should go ahead without bothering about it”.

He also said the Punjab government could follow the Delhi government plans to offer free passage to Kartarpur pilgrims.

“To facilitate the pilgrims, the Punjab government should bear all expenses to ferry them from Delhi to Dera Baba Nanak,” Ankhi said

BS Goraya, who played key role in mobilising Sikhs in demanding opening of the corridor, said: “The Union government is unnecessarily making an excuse of service charges. Pakistan is a Muslim country but it spent Rs 200 crore on the corridor. This burden should not be passed on the people of Pakistan.