UP: Unlicensed Firm Given Contract to Provide Food to Haj Pilgrims

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Concerns raised over health and safety of pilgrims; officials deny allegations of corruption

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The Uttar Pradesh Haj Committee, responsible for arranging flights and accommodation for Haj pilgrims, has come under scrutiny following allegations from a local social worker and Right to Information (RTI) activist that the Haj House canteen contract was awarded to an unlicensed firm. This, according to the activist, represents a significant neglect of the pilgrims’ health and safety.

The Maulana Ali Mian Memorial Haj House in Lucknow’s Sarojini Nagar, area provides accommodation, and food, and facilitates paperwork for Haj pilgrims. However, a complaint from social worker Sanjay Sharma led to an investigation by the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA). It revealed that the firm responsible for providing food services did not possess the necessary licence for such work. Samples taken by the investigating officer have been sent to a forensic lab for testing.

FSDA’s Acting Commissioner informed the District Magistrate of the findings in a letter dated 22 May 2024. Sanjay Sharma specifically accused Shiv Prakash Tiwari, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and the Secretary of the Haj Committee, of playing pivotal role in awarding the unlicensed canteen contract. “Awarding the canteen contract to an unlicensed firm is like playing with the health of Haj pilgrims,” Sharma asserted. He added that rules were not followed in awarding the contract and this raises suspicion.

Sharma called for a high-level investigation into the matter and requested the intervention of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. “It used to be an offline tender process, but this year it was forced to go online. Yet, awarding the contract to an unlicensed firm questions the transparency of the online tendering system,” Sharma explained.

In response, Mohsin Raza, Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh State Haj Committee, denied any wrongdoing. “I had no direct involvement in the process, and there were no complaints from the pilgrims regarding the food provided,” media reports quoted him as saying.

Similarly, Haj Committee Secretary Tiwari did not provide a direct answer regarding the tender process. However, he maintained that no complaints were received regarding food. “The last flight of Haj pilgrims left from Lucknow on 24 May, and there were no issues or complaints during that period,” he said.

As the investigation continues and forensic test results are awaited, this controversy has highlighted concerns over the transparency and accountability of the tendering processes within government committees.

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