Indian Haj pilgrims faced many problems last year: Pranab

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today admitted that Haj pilgrims from India had to face many problems such as accommodation, transportation and supply of 'Zam Zam (holy water)' during 2007-08 in Saudi Arabia.

He said about 30,000-40,000 Haj pilgrims were deprived of 'Zam Zam (holy water)' because of some ''mismanagement''.

''We will try to rectify these mistakes and take corrective steps to provide better facilities to the Haj pilgrims in future,'' Mr Mukherjee said after inaugurating the All India Annual Haj Conference here.

He said the Saudi Arabian authorities were all praise for the Indian Haj pilgrims for being the most disciplined contingent as they honoured local laws and rules.

The Minister, however, said sometimes it was not possible to have best facilities with such a huge gathering and the number witnessing a significant increase every year.

''But, there is no room for complacency. Let me assure you all shortcomings and difficulties will be looked into and corrective measures taken to improve the facilities for the Indian Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia,'' he added.

Mr Mukherjee urged all concerned to accord top priority to orientation of the Haj pilgrims.

The Minister assured that suitable buildings would be hired to provide better accommodation to the Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

''We have decided to rationalise the parameters and rates for the accommodation.'' Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the government was making best efforts to fulfil all the demands which were being made from time to time.

He said the delay in transportation of 'Zam Zam' was not the fault of the airlines only, but the supply system as well.

Mr Patel said the government has decided to include Indore as another embarkation point this year as there were demands in this regard from Madhya Pradesh.

Though there would not be a direct flight from Indore to Jeddah, the Haj pilgrims would be taken to Mumbai for their onward journey to Saudi Arabia, he added.

''There will be more embarkation points across the country in future with the expansion of airports.'' Mr Patel said there were problems regarding Haj flights and the government was trying its best to resolve them.

He assured that the Haj pilgrims would not face the problem of 'Zam Zam' transportation in future as corrective steps had already been initiated.

As many as 1,10,000 pilgrims from India will perform Haj this year.

As per the schedule of the Haj Committee of India, the application forms from the intending pilgrims would be sought by the State Haj Committees from May one.

The draw of lots, if required, would be held for ten days from June 10.

The Haj charter service from India to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, would commence on October 31 with the last flight being on December 3.

The Haj would be performed on December 7 while the return flights from Jeddah to India would commence on December 13.

UNI AG AKJ RN1656

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