The government has taken a serious note of the Central Haj Committee’s letter to the Indian consulate in Jeddah, seeking five-star accommodation and separate facilities for its 100-member delegation, comprising officials and their family members, during the pilgrimage.
The visit can set the Haj committee back by Rs 8 crore. The government has questioned the committee’s decision allowing families with the officials at a time of economic downturn.
The external affairs ministry has sought the list of officials, with their antecedents.
In a letter to the Consulate General of India in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Haj committee chief executive officer Mohammed Owais sought separate accommodation, with better kitchen and toilet facilities, for officials and their families “befitting their status” during their stay in Mina. He said the delegation be provided five-star accommodation in ‘Markaziyah area’ during its visit to Madinah Munawwarah and their transport arrangements made.
A Haj committee official said it was a routine practice and government money was not being used. “The Haj committee does not use government money. It’s customary to send a delegation, which may include family members,” he said. Despite repeated attempts, Owais could not be contacted for comments.
“If the Haj committee is not using the government money, then whose money is being wasted?” asked Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, head of All-India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, an umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations.
“It’s very unfortunate. The Haj committee is overcharging the pilgrims and spending their money on fun trip,” he said.
The committee’s move is in violation of a government order, asking all ministries to cut down foreign and domestic travel under the mandatory 10 per cent cut in the non-plan expenditure, sources said.
There was no need for huge delegations to Saudi Arabia, Khan said. “The past experience shows that the Haj committee officials pose problems to the Indian staff,” he said.