Monday, 24 July 2006

Heavy luggage killing Indian Hajis!

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 24: Heavy luggage is proving a threat to the lives of Indians performing Haj, if the number of pilgrims from the country killed during the "stoning of the devil" ritual in Saudi Arabia is any indication.
After a thorough analysis of the reasons for the death of pilgrims during the stoning ritual outside the holy city of Mecca almost every year, Saudi authorities and Haj experts have noted that most of the pilgrims who had died in the stampede were carrying heavy luggage with them when the mishap took place.
Indian Hajis usually carry heavy luggage with them for the Haj so that they could avoid purchasing things in Saudi Arabia. The luggage mostly contains groceries, dried meat and utensils. Though arrangements for food are made on a massive scale in the holy cities of Mecca and Madina, Indians prefer to cook their own food. The real trouble starts when Hajis shift their base with their luggage to open grounds outside the Mecca for the mandatory Haj rituals including the symbolic stoning of the devil.
In view of the expert report that heavy luggage is contributing to the death of Indian Hajis during the stoning ritual at Jamarat, the Consulate General of India in Jeddah has advised the Central Haj Committee and various State Haj committees to ensure that Hajis carry minimum luggage with them during the ensuing Haj in December.
"We are advising Hajis to carry not more than the stipulated 45 kgs of luggage for the Haj 2006-II. It is better if the Hajis do not carry with them food items. This will reduce the burden," Consul-General of India in Jeddah Dr Ausaf Saeed pointed out.
As many as 1426 pilgrims died in stampede during 1990 Haj, 244 in 2004 and 345 in 2006-I Haj earlier this year. Of these 345 Hajis, 62 were from India. In many instances of stampede deaths, Indian Hajis make up a substantial number and the Saudi Haj authorities want to avoid this by advising Hajis to bring in less luggage.
The CGI will set up 10 dispensaries including a 50-bed hospital in Mecca and four dispensaries in Madina for the ensuing Haj season. Medicines worth Rs 1.12 crore will be kept ready for the benefit of pilgrims from India. About 1.5 lakh Indian Muslims (including about 1.10 lakh through the Haj Committee) perform Haj every year.
Ausaf Saeed said the Saudi authorities had taken up work on a rail road connecting Madina with Mecca via Jeddah. Tenders have been called for, he added.

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