Haj committee seeks five-star facilities for members in Saudi

via http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Haj_committee_seeks_five-star_facilities_for_members_in_Saudi/articleshow/3701899.cms published on November 13, 2008

NEW DELHI: At a time when the government is trying to cut costs, a delegation of 100 officials from the Central Haj Committee including their family members are headed for a “free” pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia that could cost the state exchequer about Rs 8 crore.

In a letter to Indian missions in Riyadh and Jeddah, the Haj committee said that a delegation of its officials accompanied by their family members will proceed on Haj duties and demanded separate facilities and five-star accommodation “befitting their status” during their stay.

Alarmed at the demand, the consulate in Jeddah has sought advice from New Delhi on how to handle the situation, at a time when PM Manmohan Singh has decided to prune official “goodwill” delegations to reduce expenditure. The government has also asked all ministries to cut foreign and domestic travel expenses as part of the mandatory 10% cut on non-plan expenditure. But, the Haj committee seems to care little about such issues in the time of economic slowdown.

Usually, Haj committee officials are sent to Saudi Arabia to facilitate and assist Indian pilgrims.

According to the letter to the Indian consulate, signed by chief executive officer Mohammad Owais, the Haj committee has demanded that “arrangements for their stay should be separate and befitting the status of the officials and their family members during Haj period. Separate facilities of kitchen and toilets should be made available.”

The letter further states, “The officials and their families will require transportation arrangements during Haj period from Makkah to Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah, Mina and back to Makkah. To facilitate their journey, it is suggested that two or three buses, depending upon the number of pilgrims, should be provided.”

For its trip to Madina, the demand has been made for “accommodation in the Markaziah area” which is where Hajis who can pay only first class rates are usually booked, as it is only 5-10 km away from the central district housing the main mosque.

Former MP and prominent Muslim leader Syed Shahabuddin had earlier asked the government to cut down the size of not only the Haj committee delegation but also the “goodwill” delegation. In a letter, he had suggested that the goodwill delegation cost nearly Rs 2 crore and served no purpose, except political patronage.

Also read

CAG exposes racket in Haj goodwill missions


Is the tax-payers’ money being spent on facilitatimg Haj pilgrimage for some of the Government’s chosen people on the pretext of sending goodwill missions? The answer is a definite yes in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).



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