Islamic Voice
Jamadi-Ul-Awwal 1422H
August 2001
Volume 15-08 No:176

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HAJJ HASSLES


Karnataka Haj Pilgrims: Grand Send Offs, Messy Landings


Karnataka Haj Pilgrims

Grand Send Offs, Messy Landings

Haj_Pilgrims leaving.jpg

Maqbool Ahmed Siraj and Azmathullah Shariff

It seems the Haj Committee in Karnataka that makes elaborate arrangements to send off pilgrims to Makkah every year goes to sleep thereafter. Nothing stirs it from the deep slumber. Pilgrims are running from pillar to post with their petitions of harrowing plight at the holy sites, yet there seems to be no takers for their complaints. Full five months after the din raised at the Eidgah ground has subsided and pilgrims have returned from the Haj pilgrimage, voices are slow emerging from the pilgrims who performed Haj under the auspices of the Karnataka Haj Committee. The general refrain is that grand sendoff of pilgrims at Bangalore’s Quddus Sahib Eidgah grounds is just a polished exterior for the murky on-goings within the Haj administration in the state. There is more style than substance behind the affair. A lot of local political mileage is being extracted out of an event major part of which is played on an alien land and remains obscure from the public eye. And once out of Indian skies, the concern for welfare of the pilgrims vanishes in the vast air of the Indian Ocean. The pilgrims are treated most shabbily with no one to listen to their plight.

 


Crammed rooms and absence of kitchen facility made many a pilgrim to cook by the side of the bed in Makkah. 


Rubble of a building under demolition in Makkah obstructing access to other buildings in which Karnataka pilgrims were accomodated. 

And as is feared, the major complaint is about gross mismanagement of accommodation in the holy cities and a scam can be sniffed from the air. It seems a clique of accommodation fixers are skimming off a thick layer of cream by hurling the pilgrims into dark dungeons with bare minimum facilities. The buildings that are hired are invariably in poor shape, often beyond the limits for which the pilgrims would have paid for and involve laborious climbing due to being placed on rocky terrain. The worse part is that the pilgrims do not know whom to complain to. The Haj officials initially shift the blame on the building owners. But the building owners feel no qualms in telling the pilgrims that the Indian Consulate officials are interested in hiring only such run-down buildings and the Saudi authorities justifiably avoid booking complaints, accommodation being an exclusive domain of the Consulate. Caught between the three, the pilgrim is at his wit’s end to find the real culprit.

Islamic Voice has pieced together complaints received and gathered from several pilgrims who boarded flights from Bangalore and landed in a mess in the holy sites. Excerpts of their accounts:

 

shameemunnisa

Shameem Unnisa
Company Secretary
R.T.Nagar, Bangalore
Cover no. KA 302/5
Flight dt. Jan. 29,
A Category

We had paid Saudi Riyals 1800 per person for the accommodation which was supposed to be within 600 metres from the Harem. But we were given the third category accommodation in a ramshackle building. It was around 1200 metres from the Babel Fateh of the Masjid Harem. My old parents were with me and they had difficulty in climbing the rocky ascent on the route. The room were barely enough for four people. But we five had to cram ourselves in the narrow confines of the room. We were 23 pilgrims on the same block and had to form a queue for two toilets, of which only one had the bathing facility. So people started making wuzu in the small kitchen which frequently turned into a swimming pool. Bathrooms had no latch from inside to close. Constant coughing was the only declaration for occupancy and guarantee for protecting our privacy. The 1983 model lift often malfunctioned and could barely lift 6 persons. There was no fridge and gas stove while the noisy air-conditioner rendered our nights sleepless. Worse fate awaited in Madinah where we had to walk 45 minutes to reach the Harem.


Ahmed Shariff

Ahmed Shariff
Landlord, Neelsandra
Bangalore
Cover No KA-15/4,
Flight dt. January 27, 2001,
A Category

We were accommodated in building no 3 in room no 306. Though the accommodation was very near to Haram, the room was crammed with seven members with two sleeping beneath the feet of five others. However the accommodation provided at Madina was excellent as we were lodged in Al-Aejaz Golden Palace Hotel.


Abdul Haq Ansari

Abdul Haq Ansari
Businessman
Bangalore
Cover no. 4456/6
Flight dt. January 30,
A Category


Our plight can be imagined when 11 pilgrims were herded like goats in a 12ft. by 14 ft. room in Darul Faquih building, which was two kms away from the Harem. It also involved climbing. There were just two bathrooms for 40 persons in a floor. It took at least two and half hours for a pilgrim to wait and finish the morning wash. Latrines were western style and since pilgrims did not know how to use them, they were messy. There was no proper system for cleaning. In Madinah, the plight was still more miserable.

Md. Massab Mecci
BE Student,
Basavanagudi
Bangalore
Cover No. KA 1535/3,
Flight dt. February 10,
A Category

Though the distance of the building was just half a km from the Harem, it involved steep climbing. We three were assigned a big 15ft. by 15 feet room as soon as we were ushered into the building on the 6th floor. But on return from Madinah we found the lock removed and three more persons accommodated without any prior notice. Geyser, air-conditioner and the flush did not function. Once air-conditioner fell down but mercifully nothing happened. There was no zamzam supply in the room despite assurance to the contrary. Lift could take only three persons. Latrine was very unhygienic.


Zakiullah Sharief
Businessman, Benson Town
Bangalore
Cover no. 1535/4 Flight dt.
February 11, 2001,
A Category

The fanfare at the send off of pilgrims is sickening. How hollow is the claim for concern of the Haj officials became evident once we were ushered into our dilapidated, third rate building in Shamiah Road at Makkah the next day. We were supposed to be the privileged first category pilgrims. But the building was more than a kilometer away from the Babel Fateh gate of the Harem and involved steep climbing. Ladies among our group required at least two breathing stops on the way. Some of us burst out against the building owner but soon realized that we are barking up the wrong tree as it was Indian Haj Consulate at Jeddah that was responsible for fixing up the accommodation. Lift used to operate at its own sweet will in the six-floor building. Air-conditioner was leaky and created a lot of mess around. Mercifully, the weather was just fine in Saudi Arabia and we needed just two hours of Air-conditioning. There were only two small toilets on a floor with one of them having a bath facility. Geyser was not running and after repair produced electric shock and accident was averted due to timely caution. When we came back from Madinah, we found the lock of the room had been broken open and room occupied by two Haryana pilgrims. Despite our protests, they stayed put for the remaining part of the Haj tour leading to further congestion in the already too crammed room and no privacy. All that our complaints evoked from the officials was that Haj comes with hardships and one should learn to take them in his/her stride.


Noorul Hasan

Noorul Hasan
Businessman
Cover No. 1165/2,
Flight dt. February 3,
A Category

The accommodation was provided in building no. 8 (room no. 603). It was nearly a kilometer from the Haram. The building had leaky toilets, dirty water was seeping from the upper floors and water scarcity was commonplace. At a few occasions water was supplied by tankers after repeated requests. We often used paper towels in the lavatory. The lift got stuck thrice and the occupants remained suspended for several hours and finally the doors had to be broken open. However the accommodation provided at Madina was good. During our return journey we boarded Atlanta flight which had no water. The airhostess asked the people to share the water between two or three people from the same cup. She was rude too.


Md. Ali Advocate

Mohammed Ali
Advocate
Cover No. KA-1522/3,
Flight dt. February 6,
A Category

The facilities and accommodation, whatever has been promised, published and circulated by the Haj Committee is not at as per the specifications. While at Haram we lodged an official complaint with the Indian Haj Office at Makkah on March 13. The rooms meant to accommodate five pilgrims were assigned to eight pilgrims. Is this the difference between ‘A’ category and ‘C’ category? Congested rooms, leaky toilets, seepage of dirty water were common scenes. I have sent several representations to various offices concerning the Haj pilgrimage. In response to these representations the Chairman and Minister for Tourism and Haj states that, “Myself or my subordinates are not responsible for accommodation. It is the responsibility of the Central Haj Committee. The response from the CM’s office says that the matter has been referred to secretary revenue for necessary enquiry. If my representations do not yield any result, I am likely to file a PIL in the Hon’ble court seeking justice.


Maulana Akbar Sharif Nadwi
Teacher, Madrassa Shah Waliullah
Tennery Road, Bangalore
Flight dt. February 2, 2001,
A Category

We were assigned a room on the Shamiah side which took 20 minutes to reach from the Harem while return required 10 minutes. Jostling for the two small lifts for a 12-floor building with 40 persons on each floor should be seen to believed. The lift often malfunctioned. A lot of us used to miss our prayers. It was a decrepit building with an adjacent building under demolition. Therefore the access to our building was always strewn with rubble. Moreover, the vibrations from the adjacent site were unnerving for all of us. Geyser and air-conditioner had to be repaired. Small fridge for 40 people was hardly sufficient. Bathroom was leaky and messy with no janitors to attend to them. One of our young companions from Mangalore died because medical aid could not reach him on time.


Noor Ayesha
Housewife, BTM Layout
Bangalore
Cover no. 267/4
Flight dt. Jan. 29,
A Category

We had 12 persons cramped in a room on the third floor of a 7- floor building that could barely take seven persons. I was pregnant and my aunt was old and sick. Three of the occupants slept beneath the feet of others leaving no space for the luggage. The lift never functioned and we had to bodily lift our aunt to the third floor. The Harem could be reached only after a 15-minute walk. We had opted for the first category but were assigned building that were worse than third category.


Syed Habeeb
Businessman, S.K.Layout
Bangalore
Cover no. KA 720/9,
Flight dt. January 28, 2001,
A Category

We were in building no. 6 on Shamiah side and were put up on the third floor of the 6-storey building. Building was average but lift was too small to cater to the occupants. There used to be a queue. But other facilities were okay. We were 12 people under one cover. We were split into two groups while being sent to Madinah and landed in different locations. It was painful as one group had all the luggage while the second had none. It took us two days to find the individuals from the other groups. The anguish could be imagined from the fact that families and children were split.

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