New Delhi, Nov 22:
A day before Gurupurab, the Narendra Modi government has given a big gift to Sikhs.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Gurdaspur in Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims' passage to Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan as part of the 550th birth year celebrations of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, next year.
The government will also develop Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab, the city associated with Guru Nanak's early life, as a heritage town conforming to all principles of smart cities, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said a press conference after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at which the decisions were taken.
It will also run special trains to sacred places and gurudwaras associated with the Sikh Guru's life, he said.
"The government will develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit the holy Gurudwara Darbaar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of Ravi river in Pakistan where Guru Nanak Devji spent 18 years," he said.
The Minister said since many pilgrims visit the location on the international border from where the gurudwara in Kartarpur is visible, the government decided to set up the special corridor with all modern facilities at the border terminal including visa and customs facilities for those who are permitted to cross the border.
"Pilgrims would then be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year," a Home Ministry official said.
Meanwhile an External Affairs Ministry official said India has urged Pakistan to complete building the corridor on its side with suitable facilities.
"In keeping with the resolution adopted by the Cabinet today to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji in 2019, we have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognise the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries.
"Government of India has already decided to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Border with all modern amenities on our side," Kumar said.
Kartarpur Sahib is the place where the holy gurdwara, built on the site where Guru Nanak died in 1539, is located.
Earlier in November, Pakistan issued over 3,800 visas to Sikh pilgrims for the ongoing celebrations of the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India and Pakistan share a bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines that was signed in 1974.
Jaitley further said at the Sultanpur Lodhi, a heritage complex would also be developed called "Pind Baba Nanak Da" to depict the life journey and teachings of the Sikh Guru.
"We have also decided to establish a Centre for Interfaith Studies in Amritsar and chairs in foreign universities including in the UK and Canada," he said.
He added that all states, union territories and foreign missions of India will hold special events to commemorate the 550th birth year of the Sikh Guru.
"Coins and postal stamps will also be released. Doordarshan and All India Radio will telecast special programs and gurbani on life and teachings of Guru Nanak Devji. The National Book Trust will publish texts on his life in all Indian languages," Jaitley said.
He added the government will also request Unesco to translate those texts in various world languages.
News24 Bureau/ IANS