There seems to be no end to Haj pilgrims' plight this year. Lack of coordination between the State Haj Committee and the Saudi Arabian authorities has landed the pilgrims in a pathetic situation. While they are getting stranded at the Madina Airport for hours together with none to take, last night the pilgrims were in for a surprise at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here.
As the pilgrims numbering 350 were about to board the Saudi Arabian special chartered flight at 1.40 a.m this morning, word came that they would not fly to Madina as scheduled but proceed to Makkah after landing at Jeddah.
Then began the merry-go-round for both the pilgrims and the Haj Committee officials. It was not a simple diversion of the flight. What it meant was that all the pilgrims who were in their normal dresses had to change into ‘Ihram', the two piece unstitched white cloth. Pilgrims heading to Makkah have to necessarily drape this piece of cloth around their bodies. All the pilgrims had packed their Ihram cloth in luggage which was loaded into the aircraft since they were proceeding to Madina as per original plan.
But on account of accommodation problem at Madina, the Saudi authorities wanted the flight diverted to Jeddah. Minorities Welfare Minister, Mohammed Ahmedullah, received this information and alerted the Haj Committee chairman Syed Khaleeluddin Ahmed, around 12.30 midnight. By then the pilgrims had left for the Shamshabad airport.
Now at the dead of night, Haj Committee official swung into action to get fresh sets of Ihram for all the pilgrims. They frantically contacted the Husamia Libas Ghar, the one-stop-shop for all Haj items, at Patharghatti. The shop-owner was woken up and requested to arrange 600 sets of Ihram for male and female pilgrims besides special belts for men and chappals for all. The Husamia staff lifted the stock from their godown and transported to the Airport.
Meanwhile, the Haj Committee summoned its volunteers who helped the pilgrims put on the Ihram the proper way. All this delayed the flight by more than an hour. The next flight which was to take off at 4.40 a.m also got delayed by an hour.
Who will foot the bill for the Ihram, belts and footwear? Haj Committee officials draw a blank when asked.
Lack of coordination between authorities concerned lands pilgrims in a pathetic situation