Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal Monday slammed Pakistan for its insistence on charging $20 as service fee from Indian pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, saying the neighbouring country has made a “business out of faith”.
“Such kind of service charge to visit a religious place is unheard of anywhere in the world. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that the service charge as well as creation of a religious hub will result in earning of foreign exchange for his country is quite shocking. Pakistan should not seek to profit from piety. It should not try to earn money from the ‘aashtha’ of the pilgrims. This amounts to disrespecting the sentiments of the Sikh community which is known for its service to humanity across the world,” Harsimrat said.
Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder had also lashed out at Pakistan for demanding the service charge, saying it was tantamount to “putting a ticket” on visiting the historic gurdwara.
Harsimrat asked Amarinder to ensure free pilgrimage to Kartarpur Sahib on the pattern of similar service provided to pilgrims under the Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra scheme that was launched by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during SAD-BJP rule in state.
The Bathinda MP, in a statement, said the scheme facilitated travel of pilgrims by bus to Darbar Sahib besides travel by special trains to Nanded Sahib, Patna Sahib, Varanasi and Ajmer. She said the scheme was scrapped when the Congress government took over the reins of the state. “This scheme needs to be revived to allow the Punjab government to absorb the service charge of $20 imposed by the Pakistan government on all pilgrims wishing to visit Sri Kartarpur Sahib during the 550th Parkash Purb celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji,” said Harsimrat.
She said that other state governments were also facilitating travel of pilgrims to various religious places in the country.
“The Congress government should take up responsibility for paying $20 charge. This will go a long way in ensuring the pilgrimage is within the reach of the under privileged sections of society,” she added.
During the third round of Indo-Pak meeting last month on the issue, India had expressed disappointment over Pakistan’s “persistent inflexibility” on the $20 service fee issue and had asked it to reconsider it.
‘Pak to earn Rs 258 cr per annum from Kartarpur pilgrims’
Pakistan is expected to earn up to Rs 258 crore per annum — about Pakistani Rs 571 crore — from pilgrims visiting Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of founder of Sikhism Shri Guru Nanak Dev, officials said on Monday.
Since 5,000 pilgrims are allowed to visit the gurdwara, Pakistan, by charging $20 service fee per pilgrim, will earn $1,00,000 every day. With Monday’s rate of Indian Rs 70.95 for one USD, Pakistan will earn Indian Rs 70.95 lakh every day. As the rate of Pakistani currency is Rs 156.46 for one USD, the per day earning will be Rs 1.56 crore (Pakistani rupees).
Since the pilgrimage will be allowed all 365 days in a year, Pakistan will earn $3,65,00,000. The amount will be Indian Rs 258 crore and Pakistani Rs 571 crore.