By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,
New Delhi: Even a pious journey of Haj has not been left clean। Corrupt practices, it seems, have permeated the official process for selection of members of government’s Haj goodwill delegation sent every year to Saudi Arabia. There is no criteria, or at least the government does not want to disclose, for selection of members for the delegation, and thus has crept in favoritism. Result: E Ahamed has performed Haj three times between 2000 and 2008 on government expenses. Syed Shahnawaz Hussain two times, and he is not alone.
There are many who have been sent on official Haj more than once। Currently Minister of Raliways for State, E Ahamed who is also president of Indian Union Muslim League is on top with three trips (2000, 2004, 2006 – since 2004 he has been in ruling coalition). Two-time official Hajis include Syed Shahnawaz Hussain (2000, 2003 – his party BJP was in power), Ahmed Sayeed Malihabadi, MP, Rajya Sabha (2001, 2007), Shafiqur Rahman Barq, MP, Lok Sabha (2005, 2007) and Lutfur Rahman Lashkar, IAS, Retd (2000, 2007).
This and other facts are now in public domain, thanks to RTI activist Afroz Alam Sahil. Mass Communication student of Jamia Millia Islamia, Sahil had put three questions before the Ministry of External Affairs: List of members of last 10 delegations, criteria of selection and expenditure.
He has been provided information only about first and last question.
According to the data, the number of members from 2000 to 2008 has remained in 20s or 30s except 2006 when 51 people were sent on official Haj.
Interestingly, politicians and journalists are about one third of every delegation. In 2008, of 34 members of the Haj goodwill delegation, 11 are active or former politicians and one journalist. Similarly, in 2007, of 29 members, 9 are politicians and 4 journalists.
Another group of professionals, considered more sacred than the other two, also gets good space in the delegation. Clerics, Imams, Muftis and Sajjada Nasheens also make official holy trip.
If there were 11 politicians and one journalist in the 2008 delegation there were at least five religious heads including Imam of Parliament Street Masjid, Jaimat Ulema Nagpur president and Sajjadah Nasheen of Dargah Hazrat Saleem Chishti, Fatehpur Sikri.
Also in 2007, of 29 total members, five were clerics and leaders of religious organizations, including then president of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind and Imam, Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad.
List of Members of the Indian Haj Goodwill delegation
As for average expenditure per member, the data shows every year more than Rs 8 lakh was spent, that is four-five times more than Haj for a normal Haji costs. The expenditure data available (only from 2005-2008) says the government spent Rs eight to nine lakh per member between 2005 and 2007. But the average expenditure jumped to about Rs 13 lakh in 2008. This must have gone up in 2009.
TwoCircles.net will soon publish complete list of members of Haj goodwill delegations from 2000 to 2008.
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