Muslim League wants PM to streamline Haj pilgrimage | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Muslim League wants PM to streamline Haj pilgrimage

Upset over the delay in organising this year's Haj pilgrimage, which saw 160,000 pilgrims from India visiting the holy city of Mecca last year, the Indian Union Muslim League is seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

delhi Updated: Jun 15, 2010 17:59 IST

Upset over the delay in organising this year's Haj pilgrimage, which saw 160,000 pilgrims from India visiting the holy city of Mecca last year, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

IUML leader ET Mohammed Basheer, MP, said: "The time for organising the Haj pilgrimage is running out," and added that it should have begun a month ago.

He said that a party delegation would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 22 to request him to streamline the process for the pilgrimage. The IUML is a constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government.

"Everything has to be streamlined. Emergency action should be taken. We will meet the prime minister on June 22," Basheer told IANS.

The IUML delegation would be led by the party's representative in the union ministry, Minister of State for Railways E Ahamed.

According to Basheer, "the absence of a minister to look after the Haj affairs and the non-existence of the Haj Committee are the main reasons for the delay".

Shashi Tharoor, who quit as minister of state for external affairs in April, used to look after Haj affairs. There is now no minister to fill the void. The Delhi High Court had passed an order barring the Haj Committee chaired by Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai from functioning due to alleged irregularities in its elections.

In 2008, the Haj subsidy was Rs 826 crore, under which the government subsidised the air fare to Mecca, Madina and Mina in Saudi Arabia.

Basheer also said the places for the pilgrims to stay in the holy cities will have to be arranged.

"The delay could lead to not fixing up places of stay for Indian pilgrims near the holy sites, which would make them suffer," Basheer said.

The Delhi High Court, striking down Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium's appeal that the top Haj body officials be allowed to function so that the pilgrimage arrangements don't suffer, had said last month that the joint secretary in-charge of Haj in the external affairs ministry could temporarily oversee Haj arrangements.

The Haj panel is a statutory body with 23 members - four are joint secretaries of ministries such as external affairs and civil aviation, and do not have voting powers.

Of the other 19, ten are government nominees and nine elected according to the Haj Committee Act.

Every year, the government receives over 200,000 application for the Haj pilgrimage.

Last year, around 160,000 pilgrims performed Haj. While 110,000 pilgrims went for the pilgrimage through the Haj Committee, another 47,000 made private travel arrangements through liaison Haj tour operators.

The government makes the arrangements for the pilgrims' travel, their accommodation, food, safety and health facilities. The Haj pilgrimage starts in November.

Tharoor resigned in April after a controversy over the Indian Premier League Kochi franchise.