Punjab Govt launches free pilgrimage scheme for elderly, SAD calls it ‘publicity stunt’

DHURI (PUNJAB), Nov 27: On the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Punjab government on Monday launched the ‘Mukhya Mantri Tirth Yatra Yojna’ under which elderly people of the state would be sent on pilgrimage free of charge on trains and buses.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, who attended the launch event along with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, said the State Government will bear the expenditure for the pilgrimage.
“Today is a pious day. It is the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. On this day, I am happy to note that the Mukhya Mantri Tirath Yatra Yojana for elderly people started in Punjab,” Kejriwal said.
The first train carrying devotees left Amritsar for Hazur Sahib in Maharashtra. Around 300 pilgrims from Amritsar, 200 from Jalandhar and 500 from Dhuri were on this train, said Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of Delhi.
Under this scheme, people will be able to visit religious places such as Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Patna Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, Mata Naina Devi temple, Chintpurni, Varanasi, Mathura, Ajmer Sharif among others.
Kejriwal chief said it was his government in Delhi that first started the pilgrimage scheme a few years ago and till now, 80,000 people have visited various religious places.
The Punjab cabinet on November 6 gave a nod to the ‘Mukhya Mantri Tirath Yatra’ scheme. The State Government has earmarked Rs 40 crore for it.
Mann said the scheme is in line with the teachings and philosophy of the Guru Nanak Dev who gave the message of universal love, brotherhood, and peace to the people.
He said a large section of society was not able to visit these sacred places across the country for one reason or another.
However, Mann said the State Government has started this scheme to facilitate the pilgrims to visit the various holy places across the country and state.
The CM said more than 50,000 pilgrims will be availing this facility over a period of three months with 13,000 of them travelling via 13 trains and the remaining by buses.
A train carrying 1,000 passengers each will leave every eight days and 10 buses carrying 43 people each will leave every day over these three months. People over the age of 75 will also be allowed to have a young attendant with them, Mann said.
A team of doctors, volunteers, and officials will be travelling with the ‘yatris’ to take deal with any emergency, he stated. He said an advanced team of officials has been sent to take care of all the amenities before the ‘yatris’ arrive.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, however, termed the scheme as a “publicity stunt”, saying a similar scheme was launched almost eight years ago during the then Badal Government.
In a statement here, former minister and senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema said a pilgrimage scheme was conceptualised by the Akali Dal Government led by Parkash Singh Badal in 2015 and launched on January 1, 2016, in Amritsar when the first train carrying pilgrims left for Hazur Sahib.
He said the scheme ran successfully till March 2017 but was stopped without any reason after the Congress came to power in the state.
Now the AAP Government is trying to fool Punjabis with a relaunch of the scheme. This is only a “publicity stunt and propaganda exercise” of the AAP to divert the attention of the people from the “complete failure” of the Bhagwant Mann Government, he said.
Slamming the opposition, Mann said they have no issue to raise against the state and they are misleading the people on various issues.
People should not get swayed away by this misleading propaganda and support the State Government in its endeavour to carve out a vibrant Punjab, he said.
Training his guns at his predecessors, Mann said they built huge palaces with the wealth acquired by misusing their official position.
The walls of these palaces were high and the gates usually remained closed for the people. These leaders remained inaccessible to the people due to which they were ousted by the masses, he said. (PTI)