Muslims going on Haj pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India (HCI) will now get Indian food during their stay in the holiest places of Islam, Minister for Haj R Roshan Baig said here on Tuesday.
The move is expected to bring relief to thousands of Muslim women who usually cook for their families during the pilgrimage, and carry food grains and other ingredients for the purpose. Some families even carry home-cooked food.
“Women who go to Mecca and Medina on Haj and stay there for 40-45 days have to carry a lot of home-cooked food.
This is because the food supplied by caterers from other nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is not spicy enough to satiate the Indian taste buds,” Baig told reporters.
“This problem has now been solved. The HCI will take Indian caterers to the holy cities to cook the food which will be supplied to all the pilgrims travelling through the committee, just the way private tour operators do.”
Initially, fresh food will be served for seven days to those staying in Medina. From next year onwards, it will be served in Mecca as well.
This will meet the requirement of one lakh pilgrims going through the HCI this year, of whom 4,977 are from Karnataka.
Pilgrims will have to pay 7.5 Saudi Riyal (Rs 120) per meal, which will be Rs 240 for two meals. The meal will consist of two chapatis, 150 gm of rice, curd, pickle, side dish of mutton, chicken or fish. The breakfast will be served complimentary by the hoteliers, as per the agreement.
Baig said the pilgrims going through the HCI could not spend much and hence faced the problem. The HCI charges Rs 1.6 lakh per pilgrim while private operators charge Rs 4-7 lakh.
He further said a meeting with the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would be held on June 23.
“We will request the ministry to increase the quota for Haj pilgrims from Karnataka. It has been reduced to about 5,000 this year from 7,000 in 2013,” he said.
“We will urge the ministry to clamp down on private tour mafia who corner over 30,000 seats. We want to ensure the quota systems do not disturb the pilgrims.
Had the government permitted, 15,000 people could have gone from Karnataka last year. But private companies have not restrictions. This anomaly should be addressed.”