A sum of Rs 139 crore was spent on the free pilgrimage scheme by the previous SAD-BJP government last fiscal, leaving public transport undertakings PRTC and Punjab Roadways with an unpaid amount of Rs 13 crore, the Punjab Assembly was informed today. The Capt Amarinder Singh government has not made any provisions for the scheme in its budget, the House was told. Replying to a query during the Question Hour, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal said the government spent Rs 139 crore during the financial year 2016-17 on the ‘Mukh Mantri Tirath Darshan Yatra Scheme’.
The minister informed the House that buses undertook 484 tours of Mata Chintpurni (Himachal Pradesh), 1,191 of Salasar Dhaam in Rajasthan, 337 of Anandpur Sahib, 19 of Vaishno Devi (Katra), 5 of Jawala ji (HP), 39 of Khural Garh, 6,481 tours of the Golden Temple and 223 of Patna Sahib. Besides trains undertook 87 tours of Nanded Sahib, 18 of Varanasi, 3 of Ajmer Sharif, one of Chennai and 10 of Patna Sahib.
The previous SAD-BJP government had launched the scheme with much fanfare in the last fiscal to take people to religious places free of charge. Finance minister Badal said that because of these tours, the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) and Punjab Roadways were left with an unpaid amount of Rs 6.24 crore and Rs 7 crore respectively.
He said that the amount which was to be paid to the state roadways undertakings had been covered under the current budgetary provisions. When AAP MLA Nazar Singh demanded from the government to call this scheme “unconstitutional”, the minister said, “the government has not made further provision of the pilgrimage scheme under the new budget”.