CHANDIGARH: The ruling Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal on Monday sparred over the issue of service fee sought by Pakistan from pilgrims for using the Kartarpur corridor.
While the ruling party said the BJP-led Centre should bear the cost, the SAD demanded the state government should pay it on behalf of the pilgrims.
Pakistan has sought USD 20 from Indian pilgrims to use the corridor to visit Kartarpur in the wake of the 550 birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Congress leader and Punjab minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said in case the service fee was not waived, the Centre should bear the cost to facilitate all those wanting to pay obeisance at the historic gurdwara.
He also urged the Centre to take up the issue with Pakistan at the earliest.
Lambasting the Akalis for trying to "indulge in politicking" over a sacred matter, he dared SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to prevail over Modi and get the fee waived.
"The Badal clan vociferously claims to be the custodians of Sikh religion but when it comes to fighting for issues of the community, they are the first ones to renegade," Randhawa stated in a party release here.
Meanwhile, Akali leader and former state minister Bikram Singh Majithia asked the Congress-led Punjab government to pay the fee on behalf of Sikh pilgrims to ensure that they were not burdened with this responsibility.
Majithia said it was shocking that instead of taking up the responsibility of paying the fee, Randhawa tried to "justify it by saying the amount was not big".
"It seems Randhawa finds an extortionist charge of Rs 1,500 per pilgrim small but for the ordinary man, it is a huge sum," he said, adding that it was against all ethics and amounted to "jaziya" (tax on non-Muslims) as nowhere in the world pilgrims were charged for paying obeisance at a place of worship."()