DERA BABA Nanak (Punjab), Oct 16:
The online registration for pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is expected to commence on October 20 as a four-lane highway connecting the ‘zero point’ for onward journey to Pakistan is getting ready, but work across the border is very slow.
A state-of-the-art passenger terminal with facilitation centre to host government officials responsible for ensuring hassle-free travel of pilgrims, food kiosks, parking areas and security points will also come up by November 8 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will formally inaugurate the much-awaited Kartarpur corridor.
“The online registration for the pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is expected to commence on October 20,” Chairman of the Land Port Authority of India and Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Govind Mohan told a group of reporters here.
The total area of the passenger terminal is 2.5 lakh sq feet which is being constructed on a 20-acre land. Total land acquired for the project is 50 acres.
India has proposed that the first group of pilgrims should cross over to Pakistan on November 8.
Mohan said the work on the four-lane highway and the state-of-the-art passenger terminal, which can accommodate 5,000 pilgrims, will be completed by October end.
However, the slow progress of the work in Pakistan is clearly visible from the Indian side as there is no work on the road as well as the bridge which will connect the four-lane road constructed by India.
“Pakistan has deferred the construction but it has assured that it will complete the work in good time,” Mohan said.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is one of the holiest Sikh shrines located in the neighbouring country.
Mohan said an alternative road is being constructed up to to the zero point due to the unavailability of the bridge and the road on the Pakistan side.
Pakistan will provide transport up to the zero point to pick up pilgrims to their side of the facilitation centre and to drop them back. He said India and Pakistan are still negotiating on Islamabad’s insistence of charging USD 20 from each pilgrim and timing of the pilgrimage every day (first entry and last exit time).
A total of 55 immigration counters are being set up at the passenger terminal. There will be no visa requirements but pilgrims will have to carry their passports.
Sailendra Ajri, vice president of the Shapoorji Pallonji group, said 1,832 labours are working in multiple shifts while 58 heavy-duty cranes are also being engaged for the work. Mohan also said the work is in progress on mobile network along the corridor and a ‘darshan sthal’ for those unable to visit the gurdwara in Pakistan.
The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine here with the gurdwara at Kartarpur, just about four kilometres from the international border, located at Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life at the gurdwara Kartarpur, located on the banks of the river Ravi.
The foundation stone for the Rs 178-crore Kartarpur corridor was laid here in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in November 2018. (PTI)
Last month, both countries had agreed on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib using the Kartarpur corridor without any restrictions.
A pilgrim will only have to obtain a permit to visit the revered gurdwara in Pakistan. Persons of Indian origin holding OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card too can visit the gurdwara using the Kartarpur corridor.
It was also decided that 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine every day and that additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by Pakistan side.
India and Pakistan had also decided that the corridor would be operational throughout the year and seven days a week, and that pilgrims would have a choice to visit it as individuals or in groups.
Both sides agreed to build bridge at Budhi Ravi channel. Pending the construction of the bridge on the Pakistan side, both sides agreed to the crossing point coordinates of the temporary service road.
In November 2018, India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak.
The two sides had planned to open the corridor before the year-long celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev beginning next month.
On October 3, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said former prime minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to join the first all-party “jatha” (delegation) to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara to join the mega event after the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.
Amarinder Singh also invited President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi to attend the 550th Prakash Purb celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev and said the two have agreed to attend it. (PTI)