Low Kartarpur corridor turnout: 'Complicated' booking process blamed

A view of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo: PTI

With less then 1,000 taking the Kartarpur corridor to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the first three days of opening of the route, people feel lack of awareness about the online registration process, requirement of passport and a service fee being charged by Pakistan are to be blamed for the low turnout.

Apprehension about difficulty in getting a visa to the US or other countries after visiting Pakistan was also among the reasons why the devotees, particularly the youths, are not turning up in large numbers, they said.

In the first three days after a grand opening by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 9, just 897 devotees visited Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan through the Kartarpur corridor.

An immigration official at the Integrated Check Post said, 229 pilgrims visited on November 10, 122 on November 11 and 546 on November 12.

These are far below the numbers India and Pakistan agreed upon.

As per the agreement between the two countries, 5,000 pilgrims could cross over to the neighbouring nation per day for paying obeisance at the historic gurdwara.

Opened after over 70 years of Partition, the corridor connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province.

The immigration official said that passport and an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) were required for visiting Kartarpur Sahib.

Most of the people in the remote areas who wish to visit Kartarpur Sahib do not have passports, the official said. "And this may be one of the reasons for the low turnout."

Barinder Singh, a 33-year-old prospective pilgrim from Batala, blamed the online system of registration for the dismal turnout.

People further said that they were not aware about the registration process and it was a bit "complicated" even for those who knew about it.

"The government must provide all kinds of assistance in the online registration process," said Singh.

He also questioned the requirement of having a passport to travel through the Kartarpur corridor.

Youths are apprehensive about the visit as they think they will not get visa for countries like the US or those in Europe if they go to Pakistan, said a villager of Dera Baba Nanak.

The USD-20 service fee being charged by Pakistan per person was also one of the reasons behind the dismal number of visitors, the villager said.

Hira Singh of Harowal village who visited Kartarpur Sahib on November 10 claimed that Pakistan government was charging Rs 1,740 per pilgrim, which is more than USD 20 as per the current exchange value.

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