The 100th journey of Bharat Darshan, the popular tour package of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation's (IRCTC) South Zone, was flagged off here on Monday.
The Divisional Railway Manager, Anil Singhal, flagged off the train that proceeded to Shiridi at Madurai railway station.
The South Zone IRCTC, covering the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, began the Bharat Darshan package tours in May 2005. The tours that begin from Madurai to various destinations, especially pilgrim spots, were covered in six to 13-day packages, the IRCTC Area Manager, M.P. Vijayakumar, said.
Stating that pilgrimage was the aim of Bharat Darshan, he said 80 per cent of the tour packages covered pilgrim centres such as Kasi, Gaya, Mathura, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Sight seeing was part of the tour packages, he said.
The train formation had seven sleeper class coaches, two second class cum luggage vans and a pantry car.
So far, 40,330 passengers have benefited from the tour packages. Mr. Vijayakumar said the packages were popular among senior citizens for its economical fare and safe journey. “The train is monitored round the clock by the IRCTC control room. Being a government agency is also an added advantage for the IRCTC,” he added.
The fare works out to be Rs. 500 a day for a passenger. “This includes rail and road travel, south Indian food and accommodation. However, no concession is given under these packages. For, we have to pay to the railway for the entire accommodation, even if seats fall vacant,” he said.
IRCTC had been very consistent in operating its tour package, he said. Tours announced in advance had never been cancelled for want of sufficient number of passengers. Around 60 staff members travelled with the tourists in the train. They included a train manager and a guide in each coach.
Passengers need not carry the entire luggage with them during sight seeing or darshan at places of worship. “They could leave them in the coaches, which are guarded by security personnel,” he said.
The DRM cut a cake to mark the 100th tour. Additional DRM, T. Venkatasubramanian, Senior Divisional Railway Manager, Hoshiar Chand, were among those who were present.