With footfall at the Kartarpur Corridor reportedly quite low, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday (13 November) asked the "cash-rich" SGPC to pay the $20 per pilgrim fee for travel out of their own coffers, at least to the 'yellow card' holders who simply can not afford to pay the amount.
Amid reports of confusion among pilgrims, the Chief Minister also urged the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan to waive the passport condition for travel through Kartarpur Corridor and instead accept other forms of identity, including Aadhar card and driving licence.
These should be acceptable since there was no requirement of visa to be stamped on the passport in any case, he added.
The Chief Minister said the low number of devotees reportedly crossing over to the historic gurdwara was not because of lack of interest among the people but because of the two conditions of passport and $20 service fee.
Lakhs of pilgrims were waiting to visit the Kartarpur gurdwara on the historic 550th Prakash Purb of Guru Nanak Dev, but were held back because of the problems, he added.
Though Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted, before the opening of the Corridor, that passport would not be needed for devotees to come through, the decision was not formalised, Amarinder Singh pointed out.
He urged Imran, as well as Prime Minister Modi, to resolve the problem by coming to an agreement to amend the memorandum of understanding for passport to travel through the corridor.
If pilgrims are unable to make full use of the Kartarpur Corridor, then the whole purpose of this unique initiative on the part of the two governments would be defeated, he added.
Pointing to the lavish spends of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on holding separate programmes to commemorate the 550th Prakash Purb, the Chief Minister said it was evident the religious body was flush with funds.
Instead of flaunting their money to appease their ego and make a political point through this religious occasion, they should spend the same on supporting the devotees, especially the poor 'yellow card' holders who simply did not have the money to pay the necessary fee to Pakistan for entering their territory to pay obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, he added.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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