BATHINDA: Even as the Indian Railways has announced to start a special train ‘Panj Takht Express’, connecting five sacred Takhts (temporal seats) associated with Sikh religion, a direct railway line to Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda is still a distant dream.
The train, announced as part of year-long celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, will start on January 14 next year and will cover the takhts — Akal Takht in Amritsar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib, Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo near Bathinda, Takht Hazur Sahib at Nanded and Takht Patna Sahib in Patna in 10 days.
The train, with 800 seats in three tier airconditioned coaches, will take nine nights and 10 days train to complete the journey. The devotees, who can undertake the journey at a cost of Rs 15,750 per head, will be lodged in hotels or gurdwaras.
Welcoming Union minister Piyush Goyal’s initiave, Bathinda MP and Union food processing industry minister posted a tweet on Wednesday, saying a long standing demand of the sangat will be fulfilled as the special train will be boon for devotees wishing to visit the five takhts. She will flag off the train on January 14.
For Takht Damdama Sahib, the train will halt at Bathinda and devotees will have to travel 30kms in buses to reach the gurdwara.
There has been a demand for a direct railway line since long. During the previous UPA regime at the Centre, the then Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in February 2013 had sanctioned a 42-km track from Maur Mandi town to Rama Mandi town in Bathinda to connect the takht; which falls on the Delhi Division of Northern Railway.
After conducting a location survey in 2015-16, the railway authorities had handed over the survey report to the state government in August 2016. But since then, the matter has seen no progress.
The sources in state government said the ambitious plan is hanging fire as residents of some villages, through which the railway track would pass, had raised objections over land acquisition. Talwandi Sabo MLA Baljinder Kaur said, “It is a complex issue.
Though lakhs of Sikhs want the takht to be on the railway map, we have to take care of farmers who do not want to lose their land. The land could not be acquired forcibly.”