The Akhilesh Yadav government would soon provide free religious tour package of Haridwar and Rishikesh to people above 65 years of age.
The state government will arrange the tour with Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) of Ministry of Railways that will run a special train from Lucknow to these destinations for the beneficiaries.
The Department of Religious Affairs has already sought an estimate from IRCTC for a tour of around 1,000 people. The state government will bear the entire cost of the tour and beneficiaries could avail benefit of the scheme once in their life.
Department officials said this is for the first time that the UP government is launching such a scheme.
The tour package will cover fares of both sides of journey, meals, lodging facilities and arrangement of local conveyance at both the places. A team of doctors will also be there in the train to take care of elderly passengers.
A senior official of the department told The Indian Express, “As soon as the IRCTC provides the estimate, the department will finalise the budget required for the scheme after the Chief Minister’s go-ahead. The number of beneficiaries in the first lot would be also decided as per the estimate.”
Official said beneficiaries would be selected on first-come-first-serve basis.
Around 150 additional applicants will also be taken ‘in waiting’ so that they could be accommodated if some selected beneficiaries cancel their tour.
According to sources, the scheme was conceptualised in January this year and the department had then planned to provide free tour to sufi shrine Ajmer Sharif and Hindu pilgrimage Pushkar, both in Ajmer, Rajasthan.
Sources said the department had sought en estimated budget from IRCTC which had submitted a demand of around Rs 42 lakh.
But before the scheme could be launched, the Lok Sabha elections were announced and the model code of conduct came in effect.
After the elections, the government effected a change in plan and decided on Haridwar and Rishikesh tours. Officials said the package cost would be reduced in the new tour plan as distance from Lucknow to Haridwar and Rishikesh is shorter than Ajmer Sharif and Pushkar.