‘Shravanabelagola & Sri Patna Sahib new inclusions this year’
Udaipur : The Devasthan Department is gearing up preparations for the fourth season of taking the senior citizens on pilgrimage. This year 10,000 elderly persons would benefit of the free pilgrimage scheme that was initiated by the Congress government in 2013. The department had received 24, 578 applications from across the state and ten thousand persons have been selected for the journey on lottery basis from quota granted to each district as per the ratio of population. The first train would leave with 960 pilgrims from Jaipur to Rameshwaram on December 21 and the trips to other destinations too would complete before March end.
For the first time, the state government is providing air travel to selected pilgrims of 70 years and above and the response have been incredible. “ We had invited applications from senior citizens who are of 70 years and above to travel by air and there were 4339 persons who opted for the same. Going by the quota of travelers attributed to each district, 1000 people have been selected for the air journey while the remaining 9000 people would be taken in trains” Devasthan Commissioner Ashok Yadav told Udaipur Kiran. The air travellers may have to wait until February for the trip considering the foggy climate in the northern parts of the country. The air journey would incur no extra burden on the government, claims the officer. “ We have a budget of 15 Crore for the scheme this year and approximately 16 thousand rupees is spent per person. This includes entire cost including to and fro travel, food and lodgings and miscellaneous expenses. The air travel will not attract additional expenditure and will be covered similarly” Yadav said.
This time two new destinations have been added for the benefit of the pilgrims. “ Shravanabelagola- a popular Jain pilgrimage center in Karnataka and Shri Patna Sahib in Bihar have been added to the list of destinations. Vaishno Devi, Amritsar, Gaya-Kashi, Sammed Shikhar, Bihar Sharif, Jagganath Puri, Dwarka puri, Shirdi, Goa, Tirupati, Rameshwaram are among the other popular destinations covered under the scheme.
Rameshwaram most sought-after destination
Over 59 thousand elderly people have benefitted of the free pilgrimage scheme since its inception three years ago. In 2013, forty three thousand people undertook the journey while 9000 and 7500 persons travelled to various pilgrim centers in 2014 and 2015 respectively. “ Over forty percent persons opt for Rameshwaram which makes it the most popular pilgrim center. It may be because there is no direct connectivity till there, also for Rameshwaram is one of the four dhams considered mandatory for every Hindu believer to visit once in his lifetime” the commissioner said. Next preferred places are Jagganath puri and Tirupati temples.