Pak’s fee demand halts Kartarpur corridor registration; Gurdaspur villagers open hearts and homes to visitors

The online registration process was to begin on Sunday

Image result for Pak’s fee demand halts Kartarpur corridor registration; Gurdaspur villagers open hearts and homes to visitors
Image Courtesy: Outlook

The online registration of Pilgrims for the Kartarpur Corridor, which links the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Dera Bana Nanak in Punjab to the Kartarpur Sahib shrine in Pakistan, that was due to begin on Sunday, has been indefinitely postponed.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said that Indians seeking to visit the shrine could start online registrations from October 20 for the journey, which would commence from Chandigarh.

The corridor which is near completion is scheduled to be inaugurated by PM Modi on November 8. Pakistan Foreign Minister MehmoodQureshi is schedule to inaugurate the corridor on November 9.

India and Pakistan were supposed to sign a pact on Saturday with regards to a few unresolved issues, but that hasn’t happened yet.

On October 14, Pakistan had sent a draft proposal mentioning that Indian pilgrims would have to pay USD 20 (approx. Rs 1420) as fee to use the corridor. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that both the countries had reached an agreement on the corridor, except in the matter of the service fee.

“After several rounds of discussion with Pakistan, we have reached an agreement on all other issues, except the matter of service fee. Pakistan insists on levying a fee of USD 20 (approx. Rs. 1420) on all pilgrims,” he said. He said that India has urged Pakistan not to levy the fee in the interest of the devotees, and also because it was a people-to-people initiative taken by India to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji.

Apart from asking Pakistan to reconsider the decision on levying the fee, it asked to allow 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions and an Indian protocol officer to accompany the delegation that would visit Kartarpur every day. While both the nations have agreed to 5,000 pilgrims visiting the shrine every day, allowing additional pilgrims on special occasions will be subject to the capacity of expansion of facilities by Pakistan.

To visit the shrine at Kartarpur where Guru Nanak Dev had spent more than 18 years, both the countries had agreed to visa-free travel, with Indian pilgrims having to only carry their passports to visit the holy site.

Both sides agreed to build a bridge over the Budhi Ravi channel near the border crossing point.India has constructed a four-lane highway in Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district in Punjab connecting the “zero point” for onward journey to Pakistan.

A Gesture to Remember

Far away from the politics of the whole Kartarpur issue, 253 villages in the assembly constituency of Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur have come together in a rare display of unity by agreeing to provide free accommodation to thousands of devotees who are scheduled to be arriving in the town once the Kartarpur corridor is open to the public, The Tribune reported.

The city that has a population of 10,000 people is expected to see an influx of 20,000 visitors daily. Perplexed authorities were considering boarding and lodging arrangements at government schools in the vicinity, but the kind gesture of the villagers has led them to put their plan on hold.

Officials will now be working on the 1:3 ratio – for every pilgrim who crosses over to Kartarpur, he/she will be accompanied by three persons who will stay back in the town.

Cabinet Minister and Local MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Realising that the reputation of the town was at stake, the village heads agreed on opening their doors to pilgrims. They assured me not even a single devotee would go back unattended.”

Randhawa also reached out to sarpanches of the ShiromaniAkali Dal who agreed to have devotees coming from faraway places stay overnight at their homes.

Randhawa said that the biggest takeaway of this whole scenario was that the corridor did not differentiate between political affiliations. “Even now, villagers bring in food and beverages for devotees who come to the ‘DarshanSthal’ everyday to have a glimpse of the Kartarpurgurdwara through binoculars”, he added.

Canadian Pakistanis and Indians celebrate Kartarpur corridor launch
Kartarpur Corridor: Sikh man reunites with Muslim sisters 71 years after partition



Related Articles