Berhampur, 26th July 2016 (Odisha LIVE Bureau): It was a pilgrimage tour for the senior citizens to rejoice. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders and workers were happier as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik flagged off the state government sponsored pilgrimage tours for senior citizens ‘Baristha Nagarika Tirtha Yatra Yojana’ in Berhampur Railway Station on July 25 and thus the ruling party fulfilled its 2014 Assembly election promise.

Naveen who reached Berhampur Railway Station flagged off the train in platform number 4 and left the place few minutes later in presence of Minister of Tourism Ashok Panda, Minister of Higher Education Pradip Kumar Panigrahi, Minister of Women and Child Development Usha Devi, three BJD MLAs including V Sugyan Kumari Deo, Ramesh Chandra Chau Patnaik and Priyanshu Pradhan, secretary I & PR Manoranjan Panigrahi, secretary Tourism Gagan Dhal and many others.

“A total of 977 senior citizens belonging to 10 southern Orissa districts boarded the train on a pilgrimage tour from Berhampur to Rameswaram and Madurai. The nine day journey started on July 25 afternoon and would end on August 2 here”, said Director Tourism Department Nitin Bhanudas Jawale. We are planning to flag off the second state government sponsored pilgrimage tours for senior citizens from Bhubaneswar Railway Station during the month of September next. The subsequent pilgrimage tours would be flagged off at one moth interval. The third pilgrimage tour would start from Sambalpur Railway Station. We are now discussing with the Railway authorities about the destination and other modalities for the second and third pilgrimage tours, said Director Tourism. The names of these 977 senior citizens were selected from 2500 aspirants, he said. 18 nodal officers from nine districts (two from each district) and 5 from Ganjam, five tourist officers and one health unit accompanying this pilgrimage tour. “The nodal officers are asked to look after the senior citizens of their respective districts for a smooth pilgrimage tour”, said Nitin Bhanudas Jawale.DSC_8463 copy

Department  of Culture arranged folk dances including ‘Ghudki’, ‘pala’, ‘daskathia’, ‘bharatlila’, ‘jodisankha’, ‘ranapa’, ‘ghanta’, ‘mrudanga’, ‘Odishi, ‘pasumukha’, ‘gahana’ and others in the platform to entertain the senior citizens.

Majira Kahnar (71) of Nedi Sahi, Pabinga in Kandhamal district has never visited out side Kandhamal. “I feel great. I have never witnessed such a huge crowd”, Majira said. But his wife remained in the house as his three sons are unmarried and my wife stayed back to fed them, he said.

Subhra Gouda (62) of Khairiput under Gobindapalli panchayat in Malkangiri district said he is very happy to be in the pilgrimage tour. “Last year I went to Allahabad, Haridwar,Rishikesh, Vrindaban and other places and spent about Rs 15 thousand that my son gave me. Now when my name was selected through lottery, I immediately decided to join the state sponsored pilgrimage tour which is free of cost”, said Subhra Gouda who is a farmer and having a below poverty line (BPL) card. His wife, son and daughter-in-law are residing in Khairiput.

“I never visited south India on a pilgrimage tour. Earlier I visited Dwarka, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Haridwar about five years ago with my wife Sailabala Das and spend the money from my own pocket. Pilgrimage to Rameswaram and Madurai this time with my wife is God’s blessing and I hope to enjoy it”, said 72-years-old Bijaya Chandra Das of Ambapur under Rangipur panchayat in Ganjam who is a ‘purohit’ by profession.

Sushila Mohanty (65) from Military Lane Berhampur said she is eagerly waiting to visit Rameswar. “I wished to visit Rameswar and God has fulfilled my desire”, Sushila said.

“We are strictly following steps so that no senior citizens in this pilgrimage tour would face any difficulties”, said Minister Tourism Ashok Panda who distributed special kits to all the senior citizens. Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) provided garland to every senior citizens prior to the tour. They were also provided with a green cap, identity card for a smooth journey.DSC_6046_new

Minister Tourism said that the estimated cost per each senior citizen would be Rs 18 thousand in the inaugural pilgrimage tour. “Under the Baristha Nagarika Tirtha Yatra Yojana’ people having BPL cards would be able to travel free of cost. The amount of discount depends on the age and financial condition of the person under APL group. A senior citizen under the age group of 60 to 70 years under APL has to deposit more than half of the estimated cost of Rs 18 thousand. For a person under the age group of 70 to 75 the subsidy would be 75 percent of the total cost”, Minister said. Odisha Govt. has reached an agreement with IRCTC.

The pilgrims will be served vegetarian meals, drinking water, accommodation, road transport and medical facilities during the tour. They would be provided breakfast in the morning, lunch during the middle of the day and dinner during the night. We also provided transportation charges of the senior citizens from their respective home to Berhampur through bus or second class train fare, their food and lodging charges, Minister said.


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