J&K Haj pilgrims complain of shabby arrangements in Saudi:PDP

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Srinagar, Dec 19 (UNI) A large number of Haj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir have complained of shabby arrangements at Makkah in Saudi Arabia during the annual pilgrimage, according to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a ruling coalition partner in the state.

In statement here, a PDP spokesman said a large number of Haj pilgrims from the state called on party chief Mehbooba Mufti at Makkah to bring to her notice various problems confronting them regarding accommodation and air travel.

Quoting Ms Mufti, he said the Haj pilgrims expressed dismay over the shabby arrangements made for their stay in Saudi Arabia.

The Haj pilgrims complained that although most of them had booked for A-class accommodation they were lodged in hotels and apartments that offered not even C-class facilities, the spokesman said.

''There is no water and electricity in the rooms and we are forced to live in congested rooms in appalling hygienic conditions,'' the pilgrims were said to have told the PDP president.

The spokesman said the Haj pilgrims also expressed dismay over the reported change of norms by the Air India authorities for Jammu and Kashmir and Varanasi for carrying extra-baggage.

''While the standard rate for per kg extra baggage is around 11 Saudi Riyals, we are being asked to pay around 55 per kg,'' he quoted the pilgrims as having said.

The spokesman said such an unwarranted practice by Air India authorities was uncalled for as the pilgrims have to carry dates and Zum Zum (holy) water back home.

''We are being told that the extra baggage would be sent through cargo and not with the passenger. If extra baggage is coming through Air India cargo, there is absolutely no justification in charging high rates as cargo fares are usually reasonable,'' he further quoted the pilgrims as having said.

Ms Mufti, who is also performing the Haj this year as part of the Indian goodwill delegation, assured them that due care would be taken to ensure proper accommodation for the pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir in future.

The spokesman said she has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister's office in New Delhi. ''She spoke to the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office, Prithviraj Chauhan, in this regard seeking his intervention in mitigating the problems confronting the pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir,'' he added.

The spokesman said the PDP chief has also taken up the concerns of the Haj pilgrims regarding the extra baggage with the Civil Aviation Ministry, asking the authorities to look into the matter.

Ms Mufti has asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to take up the matter with the concerned in New Delhi to ensure that the Haj pilgrims from the state were not put to any trouble, he added.


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