[Zafar Sareshwala, the head of India’s goodwill delegation, seated 4th from right in the first row attends Annual Hajj Reception hosted by King Salman. (Photo: Saudi Press Agency)]
Jeddah: Stating that outsiders will never be able to appreciate or understand what Saudi Arabia has done, and is doing, to ensure the smooth flow of what is an unbelievably massive congregation, Zafar Sareshwala, the head of India’s goodwill delegation, described Saudi Arabia's handling of Haj as “absolutely unblemished and world class".
Addressing a press conference at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah on Thursday, Sareshwala reiterated that no one outside Saudi Arabia would ever be able to fathom what kind of facilities and infrastructure were required for the mass movement of more than two million pilgrims to four holy sites in only 24 hours — from Makkah to Mina, Mina to Arafat, Arafat to Muzdalifa and then back to Mina.
“All these have to happen for all the pilgrims at the same time. It is nothing short of a miracle. It is incredible and unimaginable. Nobody can have reason to complain,” he has been quoted as saying by local daily Arab News.
The ritual at Jamrat where the pilgrims throw stones at the three wall-like structures symbolizing the Devil went smoothly. “Carrying out this ritual used to be a nightmare and it was fraught with danger when I first performed Haj in 1991,” he said.
“I am not exaggerating and I want to reiterate that no government in the world would be able to live up to this phenomenal and challenging task,” he said.
“No epidemic, no flies, no mosquitoes, clean washrooms and top-class medical facilities. That is why I call them outstanding facilities", he added.
According to Sareshwala, it is next to impossible to find good, clean washrooms in a majority of the mosques in India. “Here there are clean washrooms at all times for more that two million pilgrims at sites that are used for only five days in a year,” he said.
Lauding the facilities at the residential buildings for Indian pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah, Sareshwala appreciated the efforts by the Haj Committee of India, Indian Consulate in Jeddah and Indian Hajj Mission for providing an excellent package of services for a minimal cost.
“I paid unannounced visits to some of these buildings in Makkah and found them in excellent condition. They looked like good, decent hotels. The Indian government and all those associated with the management of Haj affairs in India and Jeddah need to be complimented for a job very well done.”
Sareshwala said the highlight of his presence in Saudi Arabia as head of the goodwill delegation was the invitation to the reception hosted by King Salman at his palace in Mina two days ago.
“We were shown immense respect and were taken very good care of,” he said. “I had a brief opportunity to convey to the King and the Deputy Crown Prince a message of peace from Prime Minister and all Indians.”
The other member of the goodwill delegation, Gujarat Haj Committee Chairman Mohammed Ali Qadri, who also addressed the press conference, had similar praise for the services rendered during the Haj.