Jeddah: Syed Zafar Mahmood, a former bureaucrat, has suggested that the government of India should open bids to all international airlines for Haj transportation so as to bring down the cost of the pilgrimage and do away with the much-criticized Haj subsidy given to Indian pilgrims.
“The Indian government must think about airfare for its pilgrims. International bids should be invited, and whichever airline offers the minimum should be given the responsibility to carry Indian pilgrims on the journey of a lifetime,” Zafar Mahmood, told Saudi Gazette in an interview.
Syed Zafar Mahmood had served as Haj consul at the Indian consulate in Jeddah from 1988-91.
“This way the price of pilgrimage will come down and the financial advantage will go to pilgrims,” he said, adding, “If bidding is thrown open, then no Haj subsidy is required.”
“I am against the Haj subsidy. It means other people pay for your Haj. Why should others pay for your Haj?” asked Mahmood, who is the president of the Zakat Foundation of India, an NGO involved in the educational and social uplift of Indian Muslims.
He said that on his return to India he will seek an appointment with the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to bring to her notice the issues related to Indian pilgrims.
“The government of India does its best to provide the best services to Indian pilgrims. This is the largest movement of Indians going abroad for religious obligation. All the ministries concerned are performing their responsibilities really well,” said Mahmood.
During his tenure as Haj consul, Zafar Mahmood is credited with introducing a pre-arranged accommodation scheme for Indian pilgrims, starting an annual Haj action plan and discontinuing the pilgrimage by ship.