Tribune News Service
Dera Baba Nanak, November 11
It is too early in the day to pass a judgment but the signs are ominous. If the extremely low footfall of devotees at the Kartapur corridor, which was pegged at 170 yesterday and 400 today against the intended daily target of 5,000, is any indication then the chances of the much-hyped passage crumbling under the weight of the twin requirements of passports and service fee of $20 per devotee are high.
Officials clandestinely admit that if the venture had to sustain itself the prerequisites should be waived immediately.
Pakistan had initially wanted 700 pilgrims to cross over every day. Later, this figure was increased to 5,000 on the request of the Centre.
The Kartarpur dream is fading fast,” said an official.
“For us, Guru Nanak is supreme, but we would rather view him from one of the three binoculars installed at the ‘Darshan Sthall’ rather than spend Rs 20,000 on paying for passports, service fee, travelling, accommodation and other sundry expenses. I have a family of six. This means I will have to pay US $120 upfront which translates into Rs 8,520 at today’s dollar exchange rate. Then I will have to spend money on passports and other things. Why go to Kartarpur when everything at the Golden temple is free,” questioned Harjit Kaur of New Delhi.
“Darshan Sthal” is a raised platform, 100 meter away from the ICP, on which binoculars have been mounted by the BSF. Like yesterday, more than 10,000 people visited the platform. Harjit Kaur admitted that a visit to Kartarpur will disturb her monthly budget.
She does not stand in isolation. The consensus that is emerging among devotees is that “either revoke the pre-conditions or we will continue to see Guru Nanak through binoculars”.
At the T-point, from where the corridor branches off to Pakistan, cops tell devotees that they need passports. Half of them return to their villages while the rest move towards the platform.
Pilgrims are also wary that if at all they do cross over, details of their passports will get entered into the immigration software. Those who went with the first jatha corroborate this. “Yes, all the details are fed into the immigration computer system,” averred Dubai businessman SPS Oberoi, who was a part of the group.
Rajesh Sharma, DIG, BSF, confirmed that he had sent an SOS to the Batala police to help his force check the invasion of the crowd at the ‘Darshan Sthal.’“It’s turning out to be a momentous task for us. We have to pull out troops from the border to deal with the situation. Facing scarcity of men, we have now approached the Batala police. While only a few people are actually crossing over, thousands are arriving to see the ICP and platform. We fear a stampede,” an officer said.
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