Smt. Mohsina Kidwai, Member of Parliament and Chairperson of Haj Committee of India,
Senior leaders and HonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ble Members of Parliament,
Shri Sanjay Singh, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs,
Honourable Members of Haj Committee of India,
Dr. Shaik Shakir Hussain, CEO, Haj Committee of India,
Honourable Chairpersons and Members of the State Haj Committees,
Distinguished Religious Scholars, Members of Media
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I consider it a singular privilege to be participating in the Annual Conference for Haj 2011. The Conference is an important occasion which provides an opportunity for stakeholders from all over the country to make a positive contribution to the preparations for the Haj pilgrimage, keeping the interests of our Hajis in mind.
I extend a very warm welcome to each one of you and hope that the deliberations of the Conference would be constructive and result in practical suggestions for improving the management of the Haj.
At the outset, I would like to express the GovernmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s firm commitment to extend all possible assistance for successful Haj this year too, as has been done in previous years. The pilgrimage to the Holy places of Makkah and Madinah is both a cherished and life-long dream, and a sacred duty for millions of our brothers and sisters in India. We shall leave no stone unturned for making the fulfillment of their dream and duty as comfortable as we can.
You would be aware that a record number of one lakh seventy one thousand six hundred and seventy one pilgrims from our country performed Haj last year. The success of the operations was despite late start due to several court cases challenging various aspects of Haj policy and practice. This success could not have been possible without collective efforts of all stakeholders. I congratulate everyone concerned.
When I visited Saudi Arabia in March this year, I conveyed to the Saudi Government our GovernmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gratitude for the support extended to the Haj Mission of India, and congratulated them on successful organization of Haj 2010. The Saudi Embassy in New Delhi and the Consulate in Mumbai deserver our sincere thanks for the support extended to us, including through the timely issue of Haj visas. I would like to thank specially His Excellency Mr. Faisal Hassan Trad, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for all his cooperation.
Given the fact that there has been a significant increase in the number of intending Haj pilgrims from India, the Government has requested the Saudi Government for an enhanced additional Haj quota. During my visit to Jeddah for the conclusion of the Bilateral Haj Agreement with the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 26, 2011, I personally handed over the request for additional seats to the Saudi Minister for Haj.
Active preparations are underway for Haj 2011 and Review Meeting for Haj 2010 has been held in February 2011 in Jeddah.
Last year, a decision was taken to allow those Haj pilgrims who have applied unsuccessfully of three consecutive years to be automatically given a seat without having to participate in the draw of lots or Qurrah. This has already been implemented. Further, as part of our efforts to continuously improve Haj management, it has been decided to allocate confirmed seats to all the intending pilgrims over 70 years of age along with a companion, with effect from this year.
Among the many measures and reforms in the Haj process undertaken in the recent past are elections of zonal representatives, held last year. As members of the Haj Committee of India, these representatives make a valuable contribution. Other measures include increasing the number of embarkation points from 19 to 21; setting up an inter-Ministerial committee on charter flights for Haj pilgrims in order to provide better facilities; and opening a Helpline by our Consulate General in Jeddah for our pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
We are constantly monitoring the flow of passport applications and issuance of passports to Haj applicants with a view to ensuring that they get their passports in time to complete all other formalities. I am pleased to inform you that the Government has decided to give all the pilgrims selected by the Haj Committee of India passports with validity of eight months without police verification. Regional Passport offices have been advised to hold special passport adalats for the purpose.
I understand that the Haj Committee of India is making efforts to introduce standardized baggage system Haj.
I have also been informed that the Haj Committee of India is taking all necessary steps to hire accommodation for the pilgrims well in time. Over one lakh twenty five thousand units have already been approved for hiring. Process is on for signing of agreement with the landlords.
I am happy to note that an important component of the Haj preparations, viz. training, is to be undertaken in several cities of India soon after this Conference. There is indeed need for proper orientation and training of pilgrims through the Haj Committee as well as the PTOs.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
In an exercise as gigantic as Haj, which involves many agencies outside our Ministry, outside the Government of India, and outside of our country, there would always be room for improvement.
Many of you would recall that three months ago, on March 7, a meeting of Members of Parliament belonging to the Muslim community was organized by us to elicit suggestions for improvements in management of Haj. Valuable suggestions received from HonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ble colleagues meeting will go a long way in further improving facilities for Hajis and overall Haj management.
Before I conclude, I would like to assure all the distinguished participants that my Ministry is committed to solemnly carry out its constitutional responsibility for Ã¢â‚¬Å“Pilgrimages to places outside IndiaÃ¢â‚¬Â, in consultation and coordination with other stakeholders.
I wish you all success in your deliberations. Thank you.
Courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs
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