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Minorities demand more of their holy sites in free ‘pilgrimage’ scheme

Udaipur : The muslim community has asked the state government to include more places of their belief, in the soon-to-begin free pilgrimage scheme for the senior citizens. Presently, Bihar Shareef is the only holy site of the muslim community that features in the list of the twelve sacred places where the deserving senior citizens are being offered a free trip. Jagganath Puri, Gaya, Rameshwaram, Vaishno Devi, Tirupati, Varanasi, Dwarkapuri, Shirdi are among the holy places of the Hindus on the pilgrimage map. Golden temple, Amritsar, Churches in Goa and Sammed Shikar teerth represent the Sikh, Christian and Jain places of belief respectively which has a place each in the scheme.
“ The application form ask for two options from the applicant pilgrim but our people do not have a second choice to mark leave aside having more options to choose” said Mohammed Khalil, the Sadar of Anjuman Talimul Islam. There are many famous muslim holy sites across the country.

Gulbarg Sharif in Karnataka, Bhimapalli in Kerala, Nagapattinam Shareef and Kovalam Shareef dargah in Tamilnadu, Chirara Sharif in Jammu-Kashmir etc are to name a few that could be included in the pilgrimage scheme to benefit the deserving elderly people, Khalil said. “ Vellankani church in Tamil Nadu is a famous center of belief for the christian community that should have been included in the scheme” opined Sabu Joseph, a senior citizen. Last year too, people belonging to various minority sects had put up similar demands. This time, Raje government announced to continue the free pilgrimage scheme, however, the Devasthan Department did not propose or include new sites and the old list has been maintained, which has reportedly disappointed people of minority sects. According to the officials, a change in the itinerary can be made by the government, however, minimum number of pilgrims has to be fulfilled to engage a full train to a particular site which is a somewhat difficult. Mean while 1500 application forms have been taken away while 300 forms have been submitted. Since this is a free scheme, many have collected the forms irrespective of their eligibility to avail the scheme. This time the scheme has not been extended for the retired public servants, tax payers to ensure only the needy senior citizens actually benefit of it.

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