DW BUREAU / CHANDIGARH
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request Pakistan to revise the memorandum of understanding (mou) signed between both countries and remove the clause which requires a passport to access the Kartarpur Corridor besides simplification of the documentation as well as verification process.
Badal, who has written to the PM on this issue, said lakhs of Sikh pilgrims wanted to visit Kartarpur Sahib but the cumbersome procedure coupled with the requirement of passports was coming in the way of their pilgrimage to the holy site. “Instead of 5,000 pilgrims slated to visit Kartarpur Sahib, the figure is in few hundreds as majority of devotees who want to go on the pilgrimage do not have passports. The devotees are demanding this clause be struck down”.
Badal said as per the memorandum of understanding signed between the Pakistan and Indian governments a passport was required to undertake the journey even though it was not being stamped and an entry/exit slip was being issued to
all pilgrims. “A passport is also not needed because restricted access is being given to pilgrims confined to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib only”.
Badal said there were confusing signals from Pakistan also on this issue. “Though Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that a passport was not required for pilgrims, the military establishment has asserted that this is a pre-condition and only pilgrims with valid passports are being allowed to undertake the pilgrimage”.
The SAD president said he has received representations from pilgrims for removal of this condition. “People from rural areas and especially the old feel making a passport is an unnecessary expenditure since they are not likely to use it for foreign travel. He said making a passport is also a time consuming and expensive proposition with an expenditure of nearly Rs 2000 per person. “Since devotees are likely to travel as family units this puts an heavy financial burden of rs 10,000 per family as passport expenses along which coupled with service charge fee they will be saddled with expenses or nearly Rs 20,000 per family. Keeping these facts in mind I urge you to take up the issue with the Pakistan government so that the MoU between both countries can be revised and the condition for possession of a passport by a pilgrim is removed altogether”.
Badal also requested that pilgrims should be allowed to proffer identity proof like Aadhar card in lieu of passports. He said the process for registration for the pilgrimage for the pilgrimage could also be simplified. He said a mobile app could be introduced and special counters could also be created for this purpose. Badal said police verification was also taking more than ten days. He said this could also be simplified by giving authority to the village panchayat/ ward councilor to verify the antecedents of the pilgrims on the form itself before it is was submitted.
The SAD president said he was confident that once these steps were taken it would facilitate the pilgrimage of lakhs of devotees. He said there was tremendous enthusiasm among people to undertake this journey and thousands of people had visited Dera Baba Nanak in the last few days with the hope of accessing the Kartarpur Corridor.
Badal also hailed the epoch making decision to establish the Kartapur Corridor linking Dera Baba Nanak in India with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartapur in Pakistan under Mr Modi’s leadership. He said this was a long pending demand of the Sikh community and also the answer to the ‘ardas’ of the community for ‘khule darshan deedar’ of all Sikh shrines lost to the community after partition of the country. He said the fact that the Pakistan government also reciprocated the gesture of the NDA government was a true blessing of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji himself on his 550th Parkash Purb.