New Delhi: Ignoring the strong opposition by the Muslims, the Modi government finally handed over the management of Haj affairs to Ministry of Minorities. The Haj affairs, which till now were handled by Ministry of External Affairs, have been given under the charge of Minorities Ministry from October 01, 2016.
"The work related to management of Haj pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act, 2002 and rules made thereunder has been transferred from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to Ministry of Minority Affairs. Ministry of Minority Affairs has taken over the work of Haj Division of MEA with effect from 1st October, 2016", a government statement read.
"With the transfer of Haj related works from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Minority Affairs will be the nodal Ministry for all matters related to Haj pilgrimage", the statement added.
Hajj is one of the most complex organizational tasks undertaken by Government of India outside Indian borders. Indian pilgrims constitute the third largest national group performing the Hajj.
Since the year 2013, about 136,000 pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia every year for performing Haj.
"Given its complexity and geographical spread, Haj Management requires meticulous planning and close coordination with various ministries and agencies. Thus it is a year long managerial exercise", the statement said.
Haj management involves concerted efforts of Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Health, Consulate General of India, Jeddah (CGI), Haj Committee of India (HCoI) and State/UT Haj Committees.
"All aspects of the arrangements for the HCOI pilgrims in Saudi Arabia are coordinated by the Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah under the overall supervision of the Ambassador of India in Riyadh. In India, the Haj Committee of India established under the Hajj Committee Act, 2002 is responsible for making the arrangements for matters connected with Hajj", the statement said.
The Muslims had opposed the move ever since reports came first time few months before that the Hajj affairs will be handed over to the Minorities Ministry. Besides top Muslim NGOs and community leaders, Zafar Sareshwala - considered very close to Prime Minister Modi and who had led the Haj Goodwill delegation this year, had demanded that the Haj affairs should remain under the Ministry of External Affairs.
“Haj affairs should remain with the Ministry of External Affairs. The ministry has competent diplomats and capable officers, plus it has the benefit of institutional wisdom acquired over many decades of successfully managing Indian Haj affairs", Sareshwala said while addressing a press conference in Jeddah after Haj this year.
He also said that he did not see any reason for any change.
“Initially, even I was of the view that since Haj was primarily a minority affair, it should come under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. On hindsight and after having seen with my own eyes the excellent management of the annual pilgrimage by the Ministry of External Affairs, I feel the (transfer) decision is not wise. It ought to remain the way it is now.”
Sareshwala also said he was never in favour of a ministry (minorities) “that was created out of the blue by the previous government to accommodate out-of-work politicians and throw a few crumbs to them”.