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|INTERVIEW: Tanveer Ahmad
‘We have learnt our lessons’
Around 1.2 lakh (0.120 m) Indian Muslims are slated to leave for Haj this year. Seventy-two thousand of these pilgrims will go through the Indian Haj Committee. It is in fact not easy to make arrangements on such a large scale. Last year the experience of the Indian Hajis was not pleasant. They faced a number of difficulties as facilities provided by the Haj Committee were poor and substandard. Financial irregularities were also reported.
Syed Ubaidur Rahman of the MG talked to Tanveer Ahmad, chairman of the Central Haj Committee on these issues. Excerpts:
|Last year’s performance of the Haj committee was not very satisfactory, have you learnt any lessons?
We have tried to correct a number of shortcomings that were responsible for the poor performance of the Haj Committee. We have made excellent arrangements for Haj this year. Last year we had opened two new embarkment points, namely Jammu and Ahmadabad. This year we have added another embarkment point at Hyderabad. We and the Civil Aviation Ministry have sent three delegations to check and analyze the Haj arrangements in Saudi Arabia too.
We have also tried to improve the lodging facilities for the Hajis. Our buildings where we have made arrangements for their stay are very close to the Haram-e Pak. We have given great emphasis on proximity, because it saves Hajis from undue harassment. Every building where they will be lodged will necessarily be fitted with elevators.
The Haj Committee has also launched its website this year. Unless a Haji has changed his flight schedule, the website
(www.hajcommittee.com) will provide every minute detail, as and when he will return, who will be his mu’allim during the Haj period and a number of other necessary information.
We have also requested the Saudi authorities to allow us to use the airport in Madina for ferrying Hajis and they have obliged. Now fifteen thousand Hajis will return by flights from Medina itself and this will save them from great stress they have to face while going to the overcrowded Jeddah airport and boarding flights from there.
Did you do anything for checking the alleged financial irregularities in the Haj Committee? Last year's memories have not faded.
We have tried to improve in every field. We don't want to repeat our past mistakes. I assure that we have learnt great lessons from last year's lapses. We also don't want to remember the past.
You were the chairman last year too?
We have tried to correct last year’s mistakes.
Why you are charging Rs 500 extra that was not mentioned in the Haj form?
It is a voluntary gesture for the Gujarat earthquake victims. It is not compulsory for them. If any Haji wants to spare this amount to help the distressed victims of the killer quake we welcome it, but we are not asking them to pay it necessarily.
People are saying that it is compulsory and they are being forced to pay it?
No. it is not compulsory. Rather it is a voluntary gesture.
Last year Uttar Pradesh Haj Committee had forced the Hajis going from the state to shell out a substantial amount not mentioned anywhere. Have you done anything in this direction?
State Haj committees have no jurisdiction to charge any extra funds from anyone. We have given strict orders in this respect. Be it UP Haj committee or any other state committee they are not allowed to charge anything extra from the Hajis not mentioned in the Haj form.
How many Hajis are going for Haj this year?
Seventy-two thousand Hajis will go for Haj through the Haj Committee this year. The quota for private agents is forty-eight-thousand people. They will be carrying around more or less same number of people for Haj this year. So the number of Hajis leaving for Haj from India comes to around 0.120 million Hajis.
It is not easy to make arrangements for such a large number of people. But we are trying our best to provide best facilities for people going for Haj. We have asked the Indian consulate in Jeddah to take care of our Hajis. This responsibility lies with them and I expect that everything will be smooth, insha Allah. A new terminal has been opened at the Delhi airport. This is exclusively for the Haj purpose. Around one thousand five hundred people can stay there at a time. Facilities for prayers and other essentials have also been made there. We have tried to do our best. We pray that everything goes well.