The move follows a proposal to this effect by the Punjab government to the central government. Badal, who on Friday met Union Minister of State for Forests and wildlife S. Reghupathy in New Delhi, said that the minister had 'in principle' agreed to the setting up of a helipad near the shrine subject to clearances from concerned departments, including the Uttarakhand government.
The holy and historic shrine of Hemkunt Sahib is associated with the 10th Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, and is located in the Garhwal Himalayas near the Hindu shrine of Badrinath. It is said that the guru had worshipped at this shrine for a long time in the 17th century. Thousands of devout Sikhs and others visit the shrine every year. Reaching it means an arduous trek of over 19 km from Gobind Ghat through forests and glades, including the famous valley of flowers. The shrine route is open to the public only for a few months in the summers.
The setting up of a helipad will ensure that those who can afford the helicopter trip will be able to visit the shrine without undertaking the trek.
Badal has also sought the central government's permission for setting up an expansive and well-equipped concrete edifice to accommodate thousands of devotees who visit the shrine every year.
The Punjab government has also sought permission to reinforce the main structure of the shrine saying that the present one is unstable given the number of devotees coming there.
"The pilgrims undertake a lot of hardship to reach the shrine. It is the duty of the Punjab government to provide them with facilities there," Badal said.
The forest minister assured Badal that he would get the entire proposal examined by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the development of infrastructure and facilities for pilgrims around the holy shrine.