[Screenshot of a message and photograph posted on Twitter.]
New Delhi: After falsely claiming to launch 'trilingual' Haj website, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Wednesday claimed "the biggest hike in nearly three decades" the quota for Indian Haj pilgrims even as the Indian Consul General in Jeddah had said the move was a mere 'restoration' of earlier quota and not the hike.
According to the messages and photographs posted on Twitter and news reports carried by PTI, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Saudi Arabia's Haj and Umrah Minister Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Bantan inked an agreement in Jeddah on Wednesay, "increasing" the size of India's Haj quota from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520. (emphasis added)
Naqvi in a statement issued after signing the agreement said it is the "biggest increase" in quota for Haj pilgrims after 1988.
Expressing pleasure at signing of the agreement, Naqvi tweeted, "Its a matter of pleasure that Saudi Arabia has "increased" India's Haj quota by about 34,000." (emphasis added)
Naqvi said his meeting with Bantan was "very fruitful" as "constructive" discussion was held on whole gamut of issues related to the pilgrimage, transport and accommodation facilities for devotees and their safety.
While Naqvi repeatedly used the word "increase" in his statement after signing the agreement with Bantan, Indian Consul General in Jeddah had about a week before termed the "increase" as "restoration" of earlier quota cut due to the ongoing expansion project of the Makkah Haram.
According to a report published by Saudi Gazette, a number of Haj missions in Jeddah, including Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh, congratulated the Saudi leadership for "restoring" the Haj quota.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh welcomed the decision, saying that it is a great move.
“The Indian Haj Committee could accommodate only one fourth of the applicants after the quota cut. The reduced quota for pilgrims under the Haj Committee was 100,020 but the number of applicants exceeded 400,000 last year", Sheikh said.
"A total of 136,020 Indian pilgrims performed Haj during the last five years after imposition of a cut in quota in 2012, and they included 100,020 under Haj Committee and 36,000 who come through private tour operators,” he said.
From the statement of Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh it is clear that India's Haj quota was 1,70,000 till 2012 but later the year the government reduced the quota by 20 percent.
The earlier alotted quota was "restored" following the advice by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior who is also Chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, to "restore" the pilgrimage quota that existed prior to the cuts.
Under the quota system that came into effect decades ago, a country is allowed to send only one Haj pilgrim for every 1,000 Muslim citizens.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had about two weeks ago launched Haj website. The official release relating to the launch program claimed that the Haj website in available in English, Urdu and Hindi three languages. It was however later found that the website is only in English.