Srinagar: Responding to complaints by Haj pilgrims of Kashmir about inadequate facilities provided by Saudi authorities, the minister of state for Haj and Auqaf, Syed Farooq Ahmad Andrabi, on Thursday said that the issue lies outside the J&K Government’s authority.
“State governments authority is limited to Srinagar airport, the state government then hands over pilgrims to Government of India and once they (pilgrims) reach Jedha or Madina airports, it is the duty and discretion of Saudi government,” Andrabi said.
He said the Government of Saudi Arabia used to provide SIM cards to the pilgrims at the airport, but this year they approached us to issue SIMs at our respective places. “Hajj and Auqaf officials availed SIM card facility to pilgrims from Hajj house, but some of them could not be activated as they (pilgrims) failed to provide relevant documents. This was the only difficulty pilgrims faced (in Kashmir),” Andrabi added.
The minister said that due to the militant presence in Kashmir, the J&K Government have to remain extremely cautious while verifying the documents submitted by the pilgrims.
Meanwhile, the last batch of 552 hajj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir left for Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The first flight flew with 420 pilgrims at 2.15 p.m. and the second flight left from Srinagar to Madina with 132 pilgrims at 3.30 p.m.
“35215 applications for hajj 2017 were received this year and as many as 8106 people from J&K are going to perform Hajj this year. The pilgrims include 4579 male and 3524 female pilgrims, and 20 flights operated from 25 August to 03 September,” Andrabi added.
The first batch of pilgrims is scheduled to return on 07 September.