January 19, 2024: In a historic move, Chhattisgarh has secured approval for a groundbreaking initiative offering annual free train travel to individuals aspiring to embark on a pilgrimage to the Ayodhya temple. The momentous decision was officially sanctioned during a state cabinet meeting held on January 10, under the leadership of Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai.
This initiative, as per reports, emanates from a commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2023 assembly elections. According to an official release, the government pledged to facilitate the annual pilgrimage for 20,000 people to Ayodhya via train.
The eligibility criteria for this scheme, as outlined in reports, include individuals aged between 18 and 75 who are medically fit, with an initial focus on selecting individuals aged 55 and above.
Selection Process Oversight
To oversee the selection process, a committee will be established under the collector in each district. The Chhattisgarh Tourism Board will spearhead the implementation of the scheme, with necessary budgetary allocations from the state tourism department. Additionally, reports suggest the likelihood of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to execute the initiative, featuring the arrangement of a weekly special train.
The pilgrimage itinerary of the special train, accessible from Raipur, Durg, Raigarh, and Ambikapur stations, will cover a 900-km journey to Ayodhya. Travellers will make a night halt in Varanasi, where they can visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple and partake in the revered Ganga Aarti.
In a separate decision, the Sai government has designated January 22 as a ‘dry day’ to commemorate the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
These initiatives underscore the government’s dedication to promoting religious and cultural activities, offering accessible pilgrimage opportunities, and commemorating significant events in the region. The coordinated efforts of various departments and committees reflect a comprehensive approach to ensure the success of these endeavors and enhance the overall spiritual and cultural experience for the people of Chhattisgarh.