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Delhi government's free pilgrimage scheme for elderly suspended due to lack of trains

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Delhi government's free pilgrimage scheme has been temporarily suspended due to non-availability of trains, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying ...

New Delhi (PTI): Delhi government's free pilgrimage scheme has been temporarily suspended due to non-availability of trains, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying he will talk to the Centre for its resumption. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the 'Mukhyamantri Teertha Yatra' scheme has been suspended for the time being as Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for "reasons best known to it" conveyed to Delhi government that rakes were not available for the scheme.

"The scheme will be suspended for the time being till trains are available or some alternative arrangements are made," Sisodia said at a press briefing. Under the scheme, the Delhi government provides free pilgrimage facilities to senior citizen on 12 religious circuits. "The pilgrimage of elderly should not stop. They are very happy because of pilgrimage. Those whose tickets were booked must be very sad after cancellation of the trains. But you need not be disheartened. I will definitely get it resumed by talking to the Centre although it may take some time," Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

The IRCTC in a letter to the Delhi government has conveyed that the proposed trains under the scheme stands cancelled from December 10 onwards due to non availability of rakes with the Railways, Sisodia said. "I will meet the Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and IRCTC officials and try to resolve the issue of non-availability of the trains for the scheme," he said.

The government will explore possibility of covering shorter distance destinations under the scheme through buses, Sisodia said. As per the schedule planned by the Delhi government and IRCTC, 30 trains are pending between December 10, 2019 and January 28, 2020. The pending trips include 12 to Rameshwaram and six to Dwarkadhish. "Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana has been going well with the cooperation of the Indian Railways. We hope that this unexpected difficulty will be resolved soon," he said.

The scheme was launched on July 12, under which 32,828 elderly persons have gone on pilgrimage in 32 trips so far. The most popular destination was Rameshwaram as 7,865 people (nearly 25 per cent of the total pilgrims) visited the place, followed by Tirupati, Dwarkadhish, Vaishno Devi, Amritsar among others. The last train under the scheme departed on December 7 to Dwarkadhish.

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