Dera Baba Nanak, September 19
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday equated the service charge demanded by Pakistan from Indian pilgrims for visiting the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara with “jaziya” (a tax on non-muslims).
He demanded the immediate withdrawal of the proposal by Pakistan.
The chief minister, who reviewed the progress on the Kartarpur corridor here, said emperor Akbar had abolished “jaziya”, a controversial and regressive tax, during his rule.
He said the proposed service/facilitation charge of USD 20 on each visitor was against the the Sikh ideology of allowing ‘khulle darshan deedar’ (free access) of the gurdwara sahibs that remained in Pakistan after the Partition.
The CM had sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to pressure Pakistan into withdrawing the proposed service charge, an official release said.
Amarinder Singh had suggested that the minister of external affairs take up the matter in bilateral meetings on the corridor.
Pakistan, during joint secretary-level talks between the two nations early this month, had insisted on charging a service fee of USD 20 from each Indian pilgrim.
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP too had equated the provision with “jaziya”.
To a query on the security threat along the corridor, the chief minister underlined the need to remain on constant guard.
About differences with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, the CM said the talks were progressing cordially and his cabinet colleague Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had attended a meeting on Wednesday to resolve all issues amicably.
The chief minister once again urged one and all to rise above petty politics to celebrate the historic event in unison.
He urged people to conserve water and air.
Describing his visit to Dera Baba Nanak, the CM recalled that he had served in the Army in the border area during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
It was a matter of great pride and honour that valiant Indian soldiers were defending the nation’s borders from external as well as internal aggression, but the frequent sacrifices they had to make was painful and disturbing, he said.
On Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu’s absence from the review meeting, the chief minister pointed out that it was a cabinet review and Sidhu was no longer a minister in his cabinet.
He also refused to comment on Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjit Singh Bains, who has been booked for allegedly misbehaving with the Gurdaspur deputy commissioner.
Speaking on the increased penalty under the Motor Vehicle Act, the chief minister said since the Union government had left the final decision to the states, the minister concerned was looking into the matter.
Earlier, the chief minister chaired a meeting of his council of ministers.
He also paid obeisance at the Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Dera Baba Nanak.
The Kartarpur corridor will connect the Darbar Sahib—the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev—in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab.
It will facilitate a visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border is being built by India.
Though Amarinder Singh said the work on the corridor on the Indian side would be complete by October 30, he expressed concern over the pace of work on the Pakistani side. — PTI