Request Pak PM not to make it a source of income: Sukhbir Badal on charging fee from pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request Pakistan to revise the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the countries and remove the clause which requires a passport to access Kartarpur corridor besides simplification of the documentation as well as verification process.
Badal, who has written to the PM on this issue, said lakhs of Sikh pilgrims wanted to visit Kartarpur Sahib but the cumbersome procedure coupled with the requirement of passports was coming in the way of their pilgrimage to the holy site.
"Instead of 5,000 pilgrims slated to visit Kartarpur Sahib, the figure is in few hundreds as a majority of devotees who want to go on the pilgrimage do not have passports. The devotees are demanding this clause be struck down," he said.
Badal said as per the MoU signed between Pakistan and India a passport was required to undertake the journey even though it was not being stamped and an entry/exit slip was being issued to all pilgrims. "A passport is also not needed because restricted access is being given to pilgrims confined to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib only," he said.
Badal said there were confusing signals from Pakistan also on this issue. "Though Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that a passport was not required for pilgrims, the military establishment has asserted that this is a pre-condition and only pilgrims with valid passports are being allowed to undertake the pilgrimage," he said.
The SAD president said he has received representations from pilgrims for removal of this condition.
"People from rural areas and especially the old feel making a passport is an unnecessary expenditure since they are not likely to use it for foreign travel. He said making a passport is also a time consuming and expensive proposition with an expenditure of nearly Rs 2000 per person.
"Since devotees are likely to travel as family units, this puts a heavy financial burden of Rs 10,000 per family as passport expenses along which coupled with service charge fee they will be saddled with expenses or nearly Rs 20,000 per family. Keeping these facts in mind I urge you to take up the issue with the Pakistan government so that the MoU between both the countries can be revised and the condition for the possession of a passport by a pilgrim is removed altogether," he said.
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