The Delhi government on Wednesday suspended temporarily the Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana, a scheme that offers free travel packages to senior citizens from the national capital, claiming the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) had cancelled the trains for December 10 onward trips. Speaking to the media, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the scheme had been suspended as the IRCTC intimated the Delhi government of cancellation of the scheduled trains.
"The IRCTC informed us on Tuesday that it's cancelling trains of the Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana due to non-availability of rakes. We will discuss the issue with IRCTC and the Railway Minister and try to resolve it soon", he said.
The scheme provided the elderly people in Delhi an opportunity to go for pilgrimage with the complete financial support of the Delhi government.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the pilgrimage scheme should not stop. "The elders were happy with the pilgrimage. I will get it started again after talking to the central government. It may take some time," Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi. Sisodia said the scheme was on since July and was doing well with the the Railways' cooperation.
"We had signed an MoU with IRCTC. We hope this unexpected difficulty will be resolved soon", Sisodia said. As per the schedule planned by the Delhi government and the IRCTC, 30 trains were to carry pilgrims between December 10 and January 28, 2020.
Sisodia said the government would explore the possibility of using buses for short distance destinations. The scheme is aimed at enabling 1,100 senior citizens from each Assembly constituency of Delhi to undertake free pilgrimage a year. The expenses for this will be borne by the Delhi government.
The routes covered under the scheme are: Delhi-Mathura-Vrindavan-Agra-Fatehpur Sikri-Delhi, Delhi-Haridwar-Rishikesh-Neelkanth-Delhi, Delhi-Ajmer-Pushkar-Delhi, Delhi Amritsar-Wagah border-Anandpur Sahib-Delhi, and Delhi-Vaishno Devi-Jammu-Delhi.
AAP leader Gopal Rai blamed the BJP for the cancellation and said, "It's clear that the BJP is badly troubled by the fear of defeat (in the upcoming Assembly elections)".