CHANDIGARH: The governments of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a 3.5 kilometre ropeway between Anandpur Sahib and Naina Devi.
The signing of the MoU, which coincided with the 111th birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, took place in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Himachal counterpart, Jai Ram Thakur.
To be set up in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, the ropeway would help lakhs of devotees visit the two religious sites.
The Punjab tourism department has acquired land for setting up a lower terminal point and right of way in Punjab for this purpose. The project will be executed in PPP mode by setting up a special purpose vehicle. The project is estimated to cost Rs 250 crore. Its three terminal points will be at Anandpur Sahib, an intermediate terminal point at Toba, and the upper terminal point at Naina Devi.
The total paid up equity for the SPV will be Rs 1 crore, with Rs 50 lakh each as the share of the two states. As per the MoU, both states will have an equal share in the revenue, with a concession period of 40 years. The company to carry forward the work will be formed soon and it will have 10 directors, five each from the two states.
In the initial seven years, no concession fee would be paid by the concessionaire, and a time period of three years would be given to set up this project. This has been done to ensure that the tariffs remain affordable for the tourists and pilgrims.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said that the project would prove to be mutually beneficial for the two states, and underlined the need to promote tourism to boost the state's socio-economic development.
Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that the project should have been completed long ago because of its importance to the two states. He said though Himachal had cancelled this project in 2014, he initiated its revival after taking over and Captain Amarinder Singh supported it all through.
He said 25 lakh tourists visited Naina Devi every year, and 80 per cent of them were from Punjab.
The two chief ministers agreed that the project would ease the travel of devotees visiting the two shrines, which are quite far from each other, with the hilly terrain compounding their problems.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the governments of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to set up a ropeway between Anandpur Sahib and Naina Devi on July 26, 2012. The Punjab tourism department even acquired land for setting up a lower terminal and right of way. However, the MoU was cancelled by the Himachal Pradesh government on June 3, 2014.
In February 2018, a letter from the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh was received to revive the project, following which Amarinder conveyed his consent to Himachal Pradesh. Subsequently, the Punjab tourism department received the approved MoU from the government of Himachal Pradesh on September 5. This was followed by the Punjab Cabinet giving its approval to the project on September 20.