Gill upset over delay in Nankana Sahib bus service

Amritsar-Lahore bus fare exorbitant, says former CEC

Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH: The former Chief Election Commissioner, M. S. Gill, has expressed concern over the decision taken at the talks between India and Pakistan on Wednesday to defer the bus service between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib.

Mr. Gill, now a Member of Parliament from Punjab, said both sides preferred to delay the service connecting Amritsar, that houses the holiest shrine of the Sikhs,and Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.

Mr. Gill said this was in contrary to the exercise that involved exploration of possibilities for a mechanism to ferry Pakistani pilgrims to Ajmer in Rajasthan and Sirhind in Punjab. The Indian delegation did not appear to show the same interest in connecting Punjabis to Nankana Sahib.

Mr. Gill said that while the issue of the Punjabis was being continuously postponed, , the Union Government had hiked subsidies for Haj pilgrims from Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1 lakh, increasing expenses by Rs. 44 crores. He appealed for similar consideration of the sentiments of Punjabis, who were eager to visit the shrines to which they had been denied access since the Partition.

Meanwhile, it has been agreed to start the Amritsar-Lahore bus service on a weekly basis in the first half of NovemberA trial run would be carried out in the second half of October. Mr. Gill flayed the "exorbitant" fare of Rs. 750 to be charged for the journey along about 30 miles.

Terming it as "plain robbery," Mr. Gill said such a service would not go to the credit of either government, as it would only discourage people anxious to visit the neighbouring country and share the roots of their common heritage and culture.

Mr. Gill once said the spirit behind launching the Amritsar-Lahore bus service would be defeated unless Pakistan opened a visa office in Amritsar and India in Lahore.

The matter had been taken up with Union External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh many times, he said.

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