Annual Hajj Conference
External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj has stated that the government is planning to build a residential complex in Makkah and Madina as a long-term solution for accommodation problem of Indian pilgrims.
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has stated that the government is planning to build a residential complex in Makkah and Madina as a long-term solution for accommodation problem of the Indian pilgrims. Delivering the key note address in Urdu at the 30th All Indian Annual Hajj Conference last fortnight, she said accommodation for pilgrims is a major issue and there is a need to think about a long-term solution to the issue. “Can we develop some complex in the area in cooperation with the Saudi Government? They can be used for Haj pilgrimage for three months and for remaining nine months, people going for Umrah and Ziyarat can stay there,” she said. She also said there were Indian properties in Makkah before independence and the government will enquire about them. According to one estimate, there were 64 guest houses in Makkah and Madina built by Nawabs and philanthropists for Indian Haj pilgrims, but of which only three to four are intact today.
Stressing upon the need to provide better accommodation to Indian pilgrims, she urged the Haj consulate and Haj committee of India to black list those contractors who violate the agreement. While admitting that there have been shortcomings in the Haj operations, Sushma Swaraj pointed out that Haj pilgrims face difficulty due to delay or cancellation of Haj flights and has asked Air India to improve services at all the embarkation points given to it. She also censured Air India for charging Rs 1.54 lakh as ticket cost per pilgrim from those going from Srinagar against around Rs 62,800 for those who had travelled from other designated 12 airports. “I was shocked to know that Air India had last year charged 1.54 lakh as ticket cost per pilgrim for those who had taken the flight from Srinagar when the cost from other embarkation points was around Rs 62,802. It is a burden for pilgrims from Kashmir. We will try to ensure justice to them,” the minister has assured. A “Guide for Haj-2014” published in ten regional languages was also released by Sushma Swaraj at the Conference. Last year it was published in nine languages. Bengali has been added this time.