Tax payers' money spent on facilitating Haj piligrims?

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New Delhi, Oct 30: Is the tax payers' money being spent on facilitating Haj pilgrimage for some of the Government's chosen people on the pretext of sending goodwill missions? The answer is a definite 'yes' in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). The financial watchdog has asked the Government to stop sending large unweildy Haj goodwill mission to Saudi Arabia for long duration, and questioned the role and commitment of members of such delegations to the intended objective.

The itinery drawn by the Consulate at Jeddah for Haj 2006 disclosed that it has been drawn solely for the purpose of facilitating Haj pilgrimage by members of the goodwill. It included stay at Makkah, Mina and eight night's stay at Madinah. ''The long duration of the deputation(usually 18 to 20 days) is guided primarily by the objective of facilitating members to perform the pilgrimage with their spouses and family members at the cost of taxpayer's money,'' the Report said.

The Ministry of External Affairs has drawn flak from the CAG over the wasteful expenditure. The report raises special objection to the practice of allowing members to take their spouses or one member of the family with them.

The Indian Haj goodwill mission since 2003 have consisted of 16 to 34 members, while other countries, including Pakistan don't send more than five to 10 members in such delegations, the CAG report pointed out.

In 2006, average expenditure on hiring hotel accommodation for each member was a staggering Rs 7.30 lakh. The total expenditure for the 27 member delegation was a huge sum of Rs 2.87 crore, the Report said.

The CAG has also rapped the Ministry for 'non-transparency' in the nomination of members to the delegations.

The Ministry has not established any criteria for determining the suitability of the members, the Report said questioning the commitment and the role of all members to the cause of promoting goodwill.

''The scrutiny of the composition of the delegation furnished by the Ministry as well as the Government sanction for deputation of the delegation disclosed that in large number of cases, the full antecedents of members were not available. In most cases, only the names of members and the states which they belong to were available.

The Report also said that the large size of the Haj goodwill mission had been retained despite the formal recommendation of the Consul General at Jeddah and by leaders of the delegation.

Examination of docuemnts in the Ministry and in the Mission at Jeddah disclosed that the leader of the delegation holds a few meeting with the local dignitaries and officials and Chairman of the South Asian Moassasa bessides attending the King's dinner.Only two or three members are associated with these meetings and activities, and the rest have no role in the promotion of goodwill, the Report said.


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