JEDDAH — The officials of the Indian Haj Goodwill Delegation and Indian missions described Haj 2016 as a smooth and successful Haj not only for the near-perfect arrangements made by the Saudi government but also the improved services by the Indian Haj committee to its pilgrims.
The Indian Haj Goodwill Delegation leader Zafar Sareshwala, chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, termed the services provided by the Saudis is just world class at a press conference on Thursday at the Indian Consulate premises here.
He along with deputy leader of the delegation Mohamadali Kadri, chairman of Gujarat State Haj Committee, Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed, Consul General Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh, and Deputy Consul General Shahid Alam addressed the press.
Sareshwala said: “ I would like to highlight two aspects. First the kind of services provided by the Saudis was world class that nobody outside the world can even imagine. It is unimaginable to handle the smooth movement of nearly 3 million people to four different places in 24 hours — from Makkah to Mina at a prescribed time; from Mina to Arafat at a set time; from Arafat to Muzdalifah at a particular time and then to Jamarat, where the facility there and the ease in performing the stoning ritual too was unbelievable.
“It was so smooth, and I’m not exaggerating and I’ve been across the world, that no government worth its salt could have done what the Saudi authorities have done. And I’m not praising the Saudis just for the sake of praising their efforts. You take Makkah there was no epidemic; no dirt; no flies or mosquitoes where million people have gathered.
“Small, little things brought to light the Saudi management. I used to visit the toilets and it was spic and span, for if you want to check the class you go see the state of the toilets. It is always impossible in India to go to a toilet in a mosque. You can get the idea of the scale of the efforts and class of the people.”
Sareshwala stressed on the fact that he did not take others’ word but micro-managed by checking out all the facilities by himself.
“I, with my deputy and the mission officials, went to all the places to ascertain the level of facility being offered to the pilgrims. I visited the rooms, the hospitals and the camps and even the buses transporting the Hajis.
“I would also like to thank the Indian government for their efforts. I know the Haj committee has been in existence since 1957, and the successive governments have scaled it up. But the process of the improvement of the houses began in 2013. Now this year the houses were excellent. We went to quite a few accommodations in different area, and we had surprise checks too, and I selected the house randomly and we checked the foyer, the lifts, the room and the smell coming out from the room for we, business people, see all these small things. And the quality was excellent,” he said.
“The hospitals, for example, offered services that were par excellence by the highly qualified medical team, that too always with a smile. I had put my number in social media platforms and whatever requests or complaints that I received, I would, like a postman, deliver it to the Consul General and his team and they would address it immediately. No complaint was left out.
“I spoke to many of the officials on deputation from India — 539 in all who worked in different administrative capacities and doctors and paramedics — and all of them I saw offered their services with a smile,” he added.
I along with my deputy and the Indian ambassador were invited to the lunch hosted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and there in the midst of other leaders for South Asia, I asked them what’s the Haj package price offered in their respective country. I wanted to compare it with what the Indian government is offering. I can tell you that among the South Asian nations — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China — what the Indian authorities offer in the package is the cheapest while also not scrimping on quality. In fact, the Chinese official asked whether we could accommodate their 15,000 Hajis….
“I can only commend the government for improving what the previous government have been offering and they (the current government) have stood the test of time,” he said.
“It was very good experience for me and I spoke to my counterparts in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Lankan delegations and said that we should make efforts to revive and sustain peace in the region. At least let’s be good neighbors. I’m going with fond memories, and I offer my thanks to the Saudi government for doing such a wonderful job,” he said.
Kadri, for his part, thanked the Saudi government for a smooth and superb Haj, while lauding the Indian mission officials, particularly the Consul General and his team, the volunteers and the officials on deputations for contributing to a successful Haj.
Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed set the tone of the day by praising the smooth and successful completion of the Haj. “As you are aware that this was a very smooth and successful Haj. As far as we are concerned I would like to add that a little more technology was used and we had a little more of the learning experience, where we built on our past experiences.”
“We did face a bit of an issue in the initial stage with the visa system (the printouts), but we met the Haj Minister and he helped us in such a way that it smoothened out the process. I would like to add that the support that we got from the Saudi authorities in making our Haj arrangements smooth and successful went a long way in assisting us,” he said.
“Even the arrangements made in the camps, where we talked to a lot of Hajis at various stages, were appreciated. We talked to the pilgrims even when they arrived on Air-India, Spice Jet, Saudia and flynas, to ascertain their feedback. We talked to the delegation and then we went and inquired from Hajis in Makkah, their rooms and hospitals and obviously in Mina and saw that there were huge improvements both from our side and the Saudi side, and this made all the difference, especially the stress on safety of the Hajis being paramount,” he added.
“In addition, the kind of work done by the consulate and the volunteers from India was wonderful. The number of Indian volunteers was the most visible sight at Mina and at other places, especially at the Jamarat. The medical response was generally of high quality, and doctors from the army were also to the fore.
“I would like to mention here, as the Consul General has said it, that the level of responsibility of the officials on deputation and the volunteers can be gauged by the fact that two births were reported — one in Madinah and the other in Mina — during Haj and both the child and mother were safe emphasized the people’s commitment to assist the Hajis in every which way,” he said.