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Anandpur Sahib-Naina Devi ropeway to see light of day

HT explains why the project has been hanging fire and how it will benefit the two states.

punjab Updated: Sep 29, 2018 09:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Anandpur Sahib,Naina Devi,Anandpur Sahib-Naina Devi ropeway
Punjab CM Capt Amarinder and his Himachal counterpart Jai Ram Thakur after signing the MoU in Chandigarh on Friday. (HT Photo)

Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Himachal counterpart Jai Ram Thakur on Friday inked a fresh memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two states for the Anandpur Sahib-Naina Devi ropeway, paving the way for the ambitious project to link the places of pilgrimage of two faiths.

HT explains why the project has been hanging fire and how it will benefit the two states.

Why was project conceived?

The ropeway project was conceived to connect two places of historical and religious importance to Sikhs and Hindus — Anandpur Sahib in Punjab with Naina Devi located at an altitude of 1,177 meters on the Shivalik hills of Bilaspur district in Himachal. Both the places are thronged by lakhs of devotees every year. Anandpur Sahib is where the tenth Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699. And Naina Devi is revered as the place where the eyes of Lord Shiva’s consort Sati fell after she had set herself on fire and was cut into 51 pieces by Vishnu’s chakra. It is believed that Guru Gobind too went to Naina Devi and performed a yagna to seek blessings of the Goddess before leaving for his military campaign against the Mughals in 1756. Nearly 25 lakh tourists visit Naina Devi every year, with 80% of them being from Punjab.

Why MoU was signed again?

The project was shelved owing to differences between the successive Congress and BJP regimes in Himachal even as the Punjab government has been supportive of it. The first MoU to execute the project between the two states was signed in July 2012, when BJP was in power in Himachal and the Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab. However, after the Congress came to power in HP in 2012, it shelved the project and cancelled the MoU in June 2014. It has been revived by the BJP government in Himachal as CM Jairam Thakur is taking a keen interest in pushing the ropeway projects to boost state’s tourism potential. In February 2018, the Punjab government received a letter from the Himachal CM to revive the project. The Punjab tourism department received a new MoU from the HP government on September 5 and Punjab’s cabinet approved it on September 20.

Distance between two shrines

Currently, the road distance between Naina Devi and Anandpur Sahib is 24.7 km. It normally takes 45 minutes to one hour to commute between the two shrines. The ropeway will cut the distance down to 3.5 km of which just 274 metre will fall in Punjab. It will have three terminal points, the lower terminal point will be at Anandpur Sahib, intermediate at Toba and upper terminal point at Naina Devi. It is likely to be completed in three years.

The estimated cost

The estimated cost of the project is ₹250 crore and it will be executed under public-private partnership (PPP) mode by setting up a special purpose vehicle (SPV). The Punjab tourism department has acquired 108 kanal land for setting up a lower terminal point and right of way. The total paid up equity of the SPV will be ₹1 crore, with ₹50 lakh each as share of the two states. As per the MoU, both states will have equal share in the revenue with concession period of 40 years.

Significance of ropeway

The ropeway will boost tourism in both Punjab and Himachal by facilitating smooth and hassle-free movement between the two shrines, with one of them being in a hilly terrain. It will also symbolise Hindu- Sikh brotherhood as it links the two important places of pilgrimage. It is yet another example of regional cooperation between northern states ruled by different political dispensations.

Naina Devi hit headlines in 2008

In August 2008, the Naina Devi temple had witnessed one of the country’s worst stampedes. As many as 146 people were killed and 150 injured, some by falling into a ravine amid a large panicking crowd. The stampede was reportedly triggered after a rain shelter collapsed, which the devotees mistakenly mistook to be a landslide. The temple sees maximum rush during the Navratri festival.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 09:17 IST