Month on, only 16K devotees visit Kartarpur via corridor

A month after it was dedicated to the public, the much-hyped Kartarpur corridor paints a gloomy picture as the number of devotees who have crossed over is a lowly 16,000 against the intended target of 1.

Month on, only 16K devotees visit Kartarpur via corridor

editorial@tribune.com

Ravi Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Dera Baba Nanak, December 9

A month after it was dedicated to the public, the much-hyped Kartarpur corridor paints a gloomy picture as the number of devotees who have crossed over is a lowly 16,000 against the intended target of 1.50 lakh.

The main reason, among the several weighing on the minds of the prospective pilgrims, is the ‘X-factor’. This phrase is uttered several times a day in and around the corridor by officials who discuss the reasons for the low turnout.

In the local parlance, ‘X-factor’ is the fear among youth that the US, European and other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, may refuse visas if they visit Pakistan. The genesis of the fear lies in the fact that the passport details are uploaded into the immigration software at the Indian and Pakistan integrated check posts (ICPs). Youth feel that “if they travel to a country which harbours terror camps and terrorists”, then visa rejection is sure to hit them.

Officials said the $20 service fee levied by the Pakistan government was also not fair. People in the know claimed that participation of youth was necessary if the corridor was to sustain itself. “Students do not want to take a chance,” explained an immigration official.

A visit to several IELTS centres revealed the ‘X-factor’ was all pervasive.

“There are absolutely no jobs in India. Our only hope is to travel abroad on a student visa and later we can get jobs there. Kartarpur can wait till we get settled,” said Lakhbir Singh, a student.

Experts, however, differ. They maintain that the venture is a “dedicated corridor” and in no way students’ chances can be hit. “The details so uploaded in the software are just for verification basis. Moreover, other countries refuse entry only if a passport is repeatedly stamped with Pakistani visas. It is wrong to say a country will refuse entry following a visit to Kartarpur through the dedicated corridor,” said an officer at the ICP.

Students are viewing the corridor as a “potential miscalculation in their dream of going abroad.”

“Among the other causes for the disinterest is the mandatory passport requirement. A majority of the people are unable to go because they do not have a travel document. This pre-requisite should be waived,” said Cabinet minister and local MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

The cost factor is also playing a negative role. “A middle-class family requires anything between Rs 10,000-15,000. In contrast, visits to the Golden Temple and Sultanpur Lodhi are free. So better go to Amritsar than to Kartarpur,” said Kulbir Kaur, a devotee who undertook the journey a few days ago.


High cost another factor

A middle-class family requires anything between Rs 10,000-15,000 for the trip. But, visits to the Golden Temple and Sultanpur Lodhi are free. So better go to Amritsar than Kartarpur.   — Kulbir Kaur, devotee

OFFICIALS TRY TO ALLAY FEAR

The details uploaded in the software are just for verification basis. It is wrong to say a country will refuse entry following a visit to Kartarpur through the dedicated corridor.   — Official, integrated check post

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