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05 September 2012

Intense political lobbying for annual Haj pilgrimage in India

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani 

Ahmedabad: With number of aspirants for Haj heavily outnumbering the quota of pilgrims allotted for India, there is immense political lobbying for annual pilgrimage. With the central government having fixed Haj quotas for members of Parliament, chief ministers and chairmen of state Haj committees as also a few others, there is immense political lobbying for the annual pilgrimage.

As the number of aspirants for Haj pilgrimage heavily outnumber the quota of pilgrims allotted for India, many pilgrims with access to political power are trying their luck for what is generally described as “VIP quota” when their Haj applications are not selected during “Qurrah” or the draw of lots held by the Haj Committee of India.

Several Haj aspirants approached Chief Minister Narendra Modi this year as well. Sources close to Modi said he had recommended five applications and all were confirmed.

Several other BJP MPs from Gujarat, including Balu Shukla from Vadodara and former deputy prime minister L K Advani, also recommended the cases of dozens of Haj aspirants.congress Rajya Sabha member Pravin Rashtrapal also recommended 40 cases.

Saudi Arabia has allotted 1.75 lakh of Haj pilgrims for India out of a total of 22 lakh pilgrims allowed from all over the world to perform Haj annually.

But the quota system, according to Gujarat Haj Committee chairman Mehboob Ali Mirza alias Mehboob Bawa, results in a lot of complaints from Haj aspirants because it is not possible for MPs or a chief minister to accommodate all the applicants because of availability of limited quota.

Bawa, who is also the president of the Gujarat BJP’s Minority Cell, wants certain changes in the rules for private Haj tour operators, which have turned into a big business. With government having no control over the selection process of pilgrims by them, the tour operators charge as high as Rs 2- 2.5 lakh against maximum of Rs 1.20 lakh by the HCI and several unscrupulous operators even decamp with their money as they accept more applications than the quota allotted to them.

According to Bawa, there were dozens of such complaints registered against some Haj tour operators in Ahmedabad, which ran away with money of pilgrims. He wants HCI to introduce “Qurrah” system for them as well.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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