Safdarjung Railway Station was abuzz with activity Friday evening, as the Delhi government’s first pilgrimage train carrying 1,000 elderly passengers set off on its journey to Amritsar.
From neighbours taking their first trip together to elderly couples enjoying a holiday, pilgrims making the overnight journey said they were excited to be travelling with people of their age group.
Resham (66), a resident of South Delhi’s Chhattarpur, was travelling with four of her friends, all of them visiting Amritsar for the first time. “I never thought that I would get the chance to visit Amritsar, that too for free. We are incredibly happy that (Chief Minister Arvind) Kejriwal has made possible what our children were not able to.”
Those making the journey on Friday will visit the Amritsar, Wagah Border, Anandpur Sahib, among other places.
The scheme includes travel, accommodation and food for pilgrims, and has planned five routes at present. The second tour will be from July 20-24 and will cover the Delhi-Vaishno Devi-Jammu route. Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia are expected to join pilgrims on this route.
Flagging off the train on Friday, Kejriwal said, “We thought of this scheme around two years ago and faced many problems in between. But today, I am happy to say that our train is setting off… It is our dream that every elderly resident of Delhi has the chance to take one pilgrimage of their choice in their lifetime.”
People making the journey said they filled an application for the scheme through the local RWA before the Lok Sabha elections, and received a message on their phone that they had been selected.
Pratibha Gehlot (42), a resident of Najafgarh, was accompanying her 62-year-old mother on the journey. She said, “Many of our neighbours who filled the form were not selected this time. We told them that when we come back, we will tell them everything about the journey… The arrangements are great so far, the train is clean and air-conditioned and we look forward to the trip.”
Waiting for the train to leave, Ram Prasad said, “The CM will gain a lot of support through this, and proper coordination with the Central government can help him go even further.”