: The State government is gearing up to launch a free pilgrimage scheme— Divya Darshanam— for the benefit of Hindus. The Endowments Department, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and local temples will be involved in the implementation of the scheme.
As per the initial plan, the government would identify the beneficiaries based on their economic and social backwardness. They would be taken to five major temples, including Tirumala, across the State. Ninety per cent of the beneficiaries would be from the SC, ST and BC communities. The modalities are being worked out and clarity on implementation of the scheme is likely to emerge soon.
People from each of the 13 districts will be selected every year under the scheme. The government plans to rope in trusts and managements of local temples, swamijis and use online technologies to select the beneficiaries.
Speaking to The Hindu , Endowments Minister P. Manikyala Rao said that as many as 1.30 lakh people across the State would stand to gain. It is estimated that Rs. 100 crore per annum would be needed to implement the scheme. Depending upon the patronage, the budget would be scaled up from second year onwards, he said.
It was estimated the accommodation and food would cost Rs. 60 crore for 1.30 lakh pilgrims. As both would be provided at the respective temples, there need not be any special budget for it. He said Rs. 40 crore would be spent on travel expenses, and it would be shared by the TTD and the Endowments Department.
As of now, existing facilities at the major temples would be sufficient to meet the requirements of the 1.30 lakh pilgrims. The government plans to develop more facilities to meet future needs, he said.
Some of the temples on the proposed Divya Darshanam pilgrimage circuit are Sri Varaha Narasimha Swamy temple in Simhachalam, Sri Durga Malleswara Swamy temple in Vijayawada, Sri Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy temple in Srisailam, Sri Kalahasteeswara temple in Srikalahasti, Sri Veera Venkata Satya Narayana Swamy temple in Annavaram, and Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple in Dwaraka Tirumala.
The devotees will be divided into groups. Each group will cover a particular temple circuit.
However, all the pilgrimage circuits will include the Tirumala temple. Those hailing from Chittoor district will not be included in the Tirumala tour.
Haj, Jerusalem trips
The government has been funding Haj pilgrimage for many decades now. Besides, the State government in combined AP issued GO No. 29 in 2008, facilitating a subsidy for Christian pilgrims who wish to visit the holy land of Jerusalem on the lines of the Haj.
The Andhra Pradesh Minorities Welfare Department (in combined State) launched the programme in November 2008.
Continuing it, the A.P. Cabinet in 2015 approved a proposal to provide financial assistance to members of the Christian community who plan to visit Jerusalem and other religious sites, on the lines of help provided to Haj pilgrims.