CHANDIGARH: Comparing it with 'jizya', a tax imposed in earlier times by Muslim rulers on non-Muslims, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday reiterated his demand for immediate withdrawal by Pakistan of the proposed facilitation charges on visitors to the historic Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Pointing out that Emperor Akbar had abolished the controversial and regressive tax during his rule, Amarinder said the proposed Pakistani facilitation charge of $20 a visitor was against the basic spirit of the Sikh ideology of allowing 'Khulle Darshan Deedar' of the Gurudwara Sahibs which remained in Pakistan after partition.
At Dera Baba Nanak, where he reviewed the progress of the Kartarpur Corridor construction work, Amarinder pointed out that he already sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to pressurise Pakistan into withdrawing its proposed service charge. He had suggested that the Minister of External Affairs take up the matter in the bilateral meetings subject for early resolution.
Amarinder expressed the confidence that the work on Kartarpur Corridor on the Indian side would be completed by October 30, though he expressed concerns about the pace of progress on the Pakistani side. In response to a question on the security threat along the corridor, he underlined the need to remain on constant guard.
Asked about the differences with the SGPC on the celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, he said talks were progressing cordially and his cabinet colleague Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had met them 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.
Describing his visit to Dera Baba Nanak as a special occasion, the Chief Minister 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 the valiant Indian soldiers were defending the nation's borders from external as well as internal aggression, but the frequent sacrifices they had to make were painful and disturbing, he added.
With less than two months to go for the historic 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Amarinder sanctioned Rs 75.23 crore for widening and strengthening of the major roads leading to this iconic town.
Amarinder also approved Rs 3.70 crore for the construction of a Heritage Street and Food Street for the mega event, while issuing a series of directives to various departments for ensuring timely completion of all development works for the celebration.
Accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, the Chief Minister inspected the Kartarpur Corridor construction works at the Indo-Pak border here, including the Integrated Check Post (ICP) construction project, where he interacted with the construction workers. He was apprised about the upcoming passenger terminal at ICP, which would have a total capacity of 5000 -10000 and would be fully equipped with ultra-modern facilities.
Amarinder took the opportunity for a 'darshan' of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, located across the border, with the help of binoculars.
It was decided to hold the next cabinet meeting at Batala, with the Chief Minister accepting a suggestion from Tript Bajwa to direct the Chief Secretary to also conduct a special meeting at Batala.
Chairing the third meeting of Dera Baba Nanak Development Authority (DBNDA), constituted to ensure holistic development of historic town associated with the first Sikh Guru, the Chief Minister directed all top officials to ensure timely completion of the various projects related to the 550th Prakash Purb celebrations.
Amarinder disclosed that he had written to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari seeking the declaration of the Sultanpur Lodhi Beas Batala and Dera Baba Nanak road (which is to be named as Guru Nanak Dev Marg) as a National Highway.
Reviewing various power-related projects initiated in the historic city, he directed the Chairman PowerCom to ensure underground cable wiring of electricity polls being erected at the passage leading to the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
He also asked the Health Minister to finalise and put in place an elaborate healthcare plan, encompassing all emergency elements, for the facilitation of millions of devotees expected to visit the city during the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the first Sikh Guru.
Amarinder directed the DGP to expedite the process of setting up a DSP office and police station building at Dera Baba Nanak, land for which had been provided by Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. IG Border Range SPS Parmar apprised the Chief Minister about the detailed security plans for the main event. He informed the meeting that foolproof arrangements would be ensured without any inconvenience to the devotees.
In another directive, the Chief Minister asked the Principal Secretary Civil Aviation to take up the issue of special chartered flights from London and other European countries to Amritsar for facilitation of the devotees settled abroad. He also asked the concerned officials to take up with the Indian Railways the
issue of increase in frequency of special trains to the city during the historic occasion.
Meanwhile, according to an official spokesperson, of the Rs 75.23 crore approved by the Chief Minister for road widening/strengthening around Dera Baba Nanak, Rs 64.60 crore has been earmarked for the 35 km long Amritsar Sohian Fatehgarh Churian Dera Baba Nanak road, technical vetting of which had already been initiated. While Rs 4.33 crore would be spent on Ramdas Dera Baba Nanak Road, Rs.
3.49 crore has been set aside for the upgradation of 2.10 km stretch of Batala Dera Baba Nanak, and another Rs 1.73 crore for the Fatehgarh Churian Dera Baba Nanak road.
The Chief Minister has also approved an additional Rs. 1.18 crore for the extension of the park at Dera Baba Nanak, for which Rs 127.31 crore had been earlier proposed. He further sanctioned funds to the tune of Rs 18.21 lakh for the installation of heritage poles with LED lights at the park being
constructed in the historic town.