MP government cancels pilgrimage for 4000 old age residents without giving a reason
Madhya Pradesh government cancelled state sponsored pilgrimage for at least 4000 old age residents of the state, three days before their religious trip to Vaishno Devi, Kashi, Dwarka and Rameshwaram was to begin on February 15, 2020, said officials.
The cancellation of the pilgrimage, which is arranged under the ‘Mukhya Mantri Teerth Darshan Yojna’ (chief minister pilgrimage scheme) since 2012, appeared to be due to the state’s cost-cutting exercise in the face of a financial crunch.
The order issued by the spiritual department of the MP government on February 12 states, “The programme regarding five teerth darshan trains under Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojna scheduled from February 15 to March 2, is cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.”
The first out of the five trains booked for the pilgrimage was to depart from Bhopal for the Vaishno Devi shrine with 800 passengers on February 15, as per the earlier schedule before the cancellation was announced.
‘Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojna’ was introduced in the year 2012 by the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan led BJP government for non-income tax payee male residents aged 60 and above and women aged 62 years and above.
An official from the department said, “It’s the first time when so many trains were cancelled under the scheme and that too when all the preparations for the journey of the pilgrims had been made and one of the trains was about to depart two days later.”
He said the pilgrimage had not been postponed but cancelled and it seemed it was done for “no other reason” than “the financial crisis” the state government is facing.
“The state government is yet to pay Rs 17 crore to the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) for previous journeys, while a part of the amount was paid. The IRCTC sent several reminders for payment of the outstanding dues to the department of spiritual but still IRCTC was ready to arrange the trains for the pilgrims,” the official added.
Former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the development was “unfortunate”.
“The Congress government is discontinuing one scheme after another introduced for the welfare of the people by the BJP government. This government is hardly concerned for people’s welfare,” he added.
IRCTC’s public relations officer Siddharth Singh didn’t respond to phone calls and messages.
Minister for spiritual and public relations in MP government PC Sharma said the reasons for the cancellation were “technical”.
“The department will issue further information about the pilgrimage,” he added.
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