Uttar Pradesh minister for minority welfare and Haj Mohd Azam Khan in a letter to external affairs minister Salman Khurshid has asked him to ensure that Haj pilgrims are issued passports on a priority basis.
He has also urged him to direct the regional passport office at Lucknow, Ghaziabad and Bareilly to issue passports to willing Haj pilgrims within a week’s time.
The letter further stated that a large number of Muslims from rural areas go for Haj, but being semi-literate they are unable to understand technicalities involved in getting a passport. He said that a large number of applications were pending with the passport offices. Khan said there were cases in which passports were not issued even though the police inquiry had been completed.
Khan said the restriction under which a Muslim could go on Haj through Haj panel only once in a lifetime was also bad in practice and the Centre should do a rethink on the issue.
Beginning this year, the Central Haj Committee has issued instructions whereby a person can go on Haj through the Haj Committee of India only once. The clause was added apparently to send more and more people through the committee.
He also drew Khurshid’s attention to practical problems and difficulties the order would pose for millions of hajis.
“Senior citizens, women and people with physical disability often go on Haj either with their relatives or close kin. But in case that person is already a ‘haji’ (performed haj), he would not be able to accompany or take his mother, wife or father, who cannot perform the ritual alone,” he pointed out.
Another hurdle was procurement of passport. Khan said the new hi-tech online system of applying for passport through passport sewa kendras (PSKs) was proving to be a major hindrance for semi-literate people and those from rural areas. These PSKs have been hijacked by brokers, who were exploiting and fleecing people, he said.