Workers are busy uprooting weeds and bushes along both sides of the narrow road leading to the international border of India and Pakistan. Starting at Dera Baba Nanak, a town in Gurdaspur, this one-km stretch leads to that point on the border nearest to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, the shrine in Pakistan where Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, spent his
On Monday, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will perform a ground-breaking ceremony of a “corridor” to be developed on this road for pilgrims from India to access the shrine across the border. The ceremony follows India’s announcement ahead of the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak that the government will begin work on developing the corridor. Separately, Pakistan made an announcement that it too would develop the access road to the shrine on its side, promising this would be a visa-free corridor. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation on the other side on November 28.
“We have yet to get the final details. According to what we know, the existing 18-ft road will be converted into a four-lane road by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). It will be called a corridor. There is space on both sides to develop a 66-ft road. So far, there is no proposal to acquire any extra land for the corridor. What we have is enough,” said Dera Baba Nanak SDM Ashok Kumar Sharma.
This was the road that pilgrims used to visit Kartarpur Sahib before Partition. But now, it ends at the point where the BSF has erected a platform for pilgrims to view the gurdwara through binoculars.
Dera Baba Nanak Municipal Council president Parmeet Singh Bedi said, “We are busy preparing for the visit of the Vice President. It is a great moment for the town. It is historical. The road has trees and vegetation on both sides. We are uprooting the weeds and also filling the potholes on both sides with sand.”
The VIP guest will land at Army helipads in the area. The main foundation laying ceremony will not be held at Dera Baba Nanak, but three kms away, near village Mann in Kalanour, SDM Sharma said. “We are expecting a gathering of around 15,000 to 20,000 people. The foundation stone will be laid symbolically in the function and later that foundation slab will be shifted to the proposed corridor site. We couldn’t organise the function near the border because of the congested roads of Dera Baba Nanak town. But it is expected that chief guests will visit the border before the foundation ceremony,” he said. The excitement is palpable in Dera Baba Nanak.
“It is like dream come true. We always wanted it but we were convinced that the tension between the two countries would never allow the corridor to become reality. But now it is happening. We pray to God that people can start visiting Kartarpur sahib as soon as possible,” said Krishan Kumar, owner of a medical shop that has existed from before Partition.
“I have come from Patiala. I hope next time I will be able to cross the border and visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. It should be constructed as soon as possible,” said Lakhwinder Singh, a devotee who had come from Patiala to view the gurudwara through the binoculars.
Already, there are hopes that the corridor will bring economic development to this border region.
“We were economically backwards because of this tussle between both countries. Border areas always suffer. But now this corridor will bring us some prosperity,” said Parmeet Singh Bedi, the municipal council president.