Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal today flagged off the first Indian Railways ‘Tirth Yatra’ train from Amritsar Railway station to Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib, Nanded in Maharashtra.
He congratulated the people on the New Year and wished peace, communal harmony, amity and tranquillity in the state as well as in the country.
“Punjab government has been working relentlessly to preserve and promote the precious heritage of Punjab. It is our duty to pass on the rich cultural legacy of Punjab to its future generations,” Sukhbir said on the occasion.
Furthermore, the cultural heritage will boost the tourism in the state and will be critical in building a sustainable visitor economy, he added.
“Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra Yojana is yet another attempt of the Punjab government to preserve and promote majestic culture and royal heritage of Punjab,” Badal said.
The Indian Railways train comprising 18 coaches can accommodate 1,080 pilgrims, while its pantry can cater to 1500 passengers.
The pilgrims will be provided food, accommodation, transportation, boarding and lodging facilities free of cost.
They will also get to listen to devotional songs to be played on the train.
About 1000 persons from each of the 117 constituencies of the state have been selected for the pilgrimage.
Deputy Commissioners of respective constituencies have screened and selected the beneficiaries of the scheme, he said.
An estimated Rs 187 crore has been earmarked for the scheme.
The first Indian Railways train is scheduled to return on January 6.
Seven more such trains will ply for Nanded Sahib from Maur (Bathinda), Sri Anandpur Sahib, Tarn Taran, Patiala, Batala (Gurdaspur), Sri Muktsar Sahib and Beas this month.
Apart from trains to the famous Sikh pilgrimage, two trains to Varanasi from Ludhiana and Jalandhar and one to Ajmer Shariff from Malerkotla will also be launched in January.
In addition, eleven more Tirth Yatra trains have been planned in January and February under this scheme.
Tirath Yatra trains to Katra for Maa Vaishno Devi and to Chennai for Basilica in San Thome built over tomb of St Thomas, an apostle of Jesus, are also in the offing.
Free buses will also ply under the scheme from January 4, to Salasar (Rajasthan) and Chintpurni (Himachal Pradesh).
The state Welfare Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike also boarded the train along with his family members.
Officers of various government departments also accompanied the pilgrims bound for Nanded.
Talking about development projects of Amristsar, Badal said that within a year the holy city would sport a fresh look as various development projects were on verge of completion.
It is pertinent to mention that Amritsar has attained the status of a heritage city and an amount of Rs 69 crore has been allocated to preserve the monuments, mute testimonials of Punjabu2019s glorious heritage besides giving facelift to Sri Harminder Sahibu2019s fau00e7ade at an outlay of Rs 211 crore,he said.
The Punjab government has earmarked Rs 100 crore for Shri Guru Gobind Singh, 350th Parkash Purab at Takht Sri Patna Sahib, birth place of Guru Gobind Singh.
Elaborating further on development plans of the state government, he said that in the next one year, a sum of Rs 6000 crore would be spent on rural development while development projects of assembly segments will commence soon at an estimated cost of Rs 30-40 crore.
Similarly, the projects of infrastructural development in 140 cities of the state are underway on war footing, he added.