Bukhari calls for end to Air India's Haj monopoly

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New Delhi, Apr 10 (UNI) Accusing Air India of meting out ''bad treatment and humilation'' to Haj pilgrims, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari has urged the Government to end the airline's monopoly and select an alternative airline by inviting global tenders.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Maulana Bukhari also accused Minister of state for External Affairs E Ahamed of misappropriating the reservation quota during the past four years.

''He not only acted out of regional bias but also tried his best to benefit certain tour operators.. . If the UPA is keen to retain the confidence of the Indian Muslim, the Haj affairs should be handed over to some other Minister as the Indian Muslim has lost faith in Mr Ahamed,'' he said.

He also demanded an inquiry into the alleged association of Mr Ahamed with a particular tour operator.

Alleging that the Air India staff at the Jeddah airport had behaved recklessly with the Haj pilgrims, Mr Bukhari said the monopoly of Air India must end at any cost and services of any other national airline should be availed.

Pointing out that the Muslims did not gain anything from subsidy given by the Government, the Maulana said it was Air India was the sole benefactor as the amount helped the airline in ''turning its losses into profit''.

''It has come to my knowledge that this year Air India recieved Rs 300 crores and .. has looted the Government and the pilgrims by fixing the fare monopolistically,'' he said in the letter dated April 8.

He said the basic reason behind these problems was that the Haj Act had ''incapacitated'' the Haj Committee of India and has freely let the bureaucracy, Air India and the Indian Consulate an upper hand to whatever they like in both India and Saudi Arabia.

Calling for making the Haj Committee a fully autonomous body, Mr Bukhari said it should also be a nodal agency to look after the Haj arrangements at both national and international level.


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