Barely three weeks before the Kartarpur corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal, Pakistan is opened to pilgrims, the missing Pakistani side of the connecting bridge — that stands completed as an all-weather road on the Indian side — stands out.
Devotees wishing to visit the gurudwara where Guru Nanak Devji spent the last 18 years of his life, must make do with an alternative, supposedly makeshift slip road on one side of the bridge, as Pakistan remains non-committal on the timeframe for completing its side of the bridge.
For now, the pilgrims will take the Indian road to the zero lines, before boarding vehicles arranged by Pakistan to cover the rest of the distance to the passenger terminal complex on its side.
Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) chairman Govind Mohan on Wednesday claimed the Indian side of the Kartarpur corridor was 80% complete and would be handed over to LPAI on October 31.
The Indian side of the 4.2-km Kartarpur corridor is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji. The first group of pilgrims (Jatha) will visit Kartarpur Sahib thereafter.
Pilgrims may start registering online for the darshan from October 20.
“Applications can be lodged electronically through the portal. The online system of registration is expected to commence on October 20, after the memorandum of understanding is signed between the sides. Processing will be done in such a manner to ensure that there is sufficient time before the expected date of departure when the decision is conveyed,” said Mohan.
The memorandum of understanding on the Kartarpur corridor is expected to be finalized on October 19. Mohan said negotiations are still underway with Islamabad on the $20 service fee it insists on charging the pilgrims for darshan at Kartarpur Sahib.
While many Sikh devotees like Harjinder Singh from Batala and Kulwinder Kaur of Dhyanpur, who were here to pay respects to Kartarpur Sahib from afar and make do with darshan through binoculars installed near the zero line, told TOI that the $20 fee was not justified given that the purpose was religious and the poor had as much right to pay obeisance as the rich, sources in the government said that even if Pakistan remains adamant on levying the fee, it will end up being the one seen in poor light. “In any case, there are many pilgrims who shall still be willing to pay Rs 1400 to visit the gurudwara where Guru Nanak Devji spent his last years,” said an officer.
On the lack of mobile connectivity along the Kartarpur corridor, Mohan said while connectivity and data speed was usually limited in border areas, there was a proposal to seek a special relaxation for Kartarpur corridor “so that the pilgrims do not face any problem”.