Sareshwala opposes transfer of Indian Haj affairs from MEA to MMA

MAKING A POINT: Zafar Sareshwala, the head of India’s Haj goodwill delegation, addresses a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday. Also seen are Gujarat Haj Committee Chairman Mohammed Ali Qadri, left, Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed, 2nd left, Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh, 2nd right, and Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Mohammed Shahid Alam, right. (AN photo)
Updated 16 September 2016
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Sareshwala opposes transfer of Indian Haj affairs from MEA to MMA

JEDDAH: The leader of India’s Haj goodwill delegation is strongly opposed to his government’s decision to transfer the management of Haj affairs from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA).

Responding to a question from Arab News at a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday, Zafar Sareshwala said: “Haj affairs should remain with the Ministry of External Affairs. The ministry has competent diplomats and capable officers, plus it has the benefit of institutional wisdom acquired over many decades of successfully managing Indian Haj affairs.”

Sareshwala said he did not see any reason for the decision. “Initially, even I was of the view that since Haj was primarily a minority affair, it should come under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. On hindsight and after having seen with my own eyes the excellent management of the annual pilgrimage by the Ministry of External Affairs, I feel the (transfer) decision is not wise. It ought to remain the way it is now.”

The decision to transfer Haj affairs was taken by the previous Manmohan Singh government. The present Narendra Modi-led government went along with the decision and effected the change earlier this year. Haj 2017 will therefore be managed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

In response to a question from a member of Parliament in April this year, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh said: “It has been decided to transfer the work related to management of the Haj pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act (1959) and rules made thereunder, from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.”

Najma Heptulla, who was until recently the minister of minority affairs in the Modi government, confirmed in February this year that Haj would be transferred to the Ministry of Minority Affairs. “I have received a communication in this regard,” she said.

“Haj is being transferred to us but not because of mismanagement,” she said. “The prime minister has transferred it to us perhaps from the administrative point of view since Haj deals with a minority community.”

Heptulla was replaced recently by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as the minority affairs minister. A longtime member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Naqvi is widely distrusted by the Muslim community in India.

The opposition to the move by Sareshwala, who is said to enjoy good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is considered significant.

“I will submit a report to the honorable prime minister on all the good work that I have seen here and I will recommend that Haj not be transferred to the Ministry of Minority Affairs,” he said. “This is my view. Ultimately, of course, it is up to the government to decide.”

Sareshwala said he was never in favor of a ministry “that was created out of the blue by the previous government to accommodate out-of-work politicians and throw a few crumbs to them.”

The issue is set to become a talking point in India with the emergence of details about exactly what the transfer entails. At the moment, the community seems to be confused and divided.


Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

  • The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021
  • SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is fast catching up with the world’s ever-growing energy and technology scene ahead of 2030. In fact, the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) may soon prove a global destination for energy industry investors.

The new energy city mega-project is being developed by Saudi Aramco, which received authoritization to embark on the initiative in the summer, and is operated, managed and maintained in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). 

With projections that the megacity will create more than 100,000 jobs, it is considered one of the most up-and-coming energy parks in the world.

SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower.

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. 

The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021, while the final phase of the project is set for completion in 2035. With all this on track, the 50-square-kilometer project is poised to be a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday. (SPA)

What’s more, Aramco’s espousal of SPARK will also help businesses indulge in technological development, manufacturing and exports channels and build a world-class energy supply chain. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid Al-Falih declared SPARK a special economic zone (SEZ) in which businesses can enjoy exclusive benefits. 

“We are looking forward to collaborating with our first anchor partners at SPARK,” said Saudi Aramco President and CEO, Amin Nasser.

SPARK has already attracted investment from foreign and local companies to produce and manufacture goods and services. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion. 

The park is set to attract industrial investors in the water, power, petrochemical and wastewater sectors, among others. 

Facilities at SPARK will also help investors bridge gaps in local production back home, increasing competition in the long run. 

“This energy city is exciting because it brings together a multitude of businesses,” Mark McCollum, president and CEO of Weatherford Corp, told SPARK.

“We firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation among service companies and individual providers to the energy sector is vital in breaking new ground.”

The King Salman Energy Park is also set to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. With focus on energy production, it also provides opportunities for investment in residential and commercial real estate projects.

Nasser said that the “King Salman Energy Park will spur a new era of growth for one of the Kingdom’s already thriving sectors. What’s more, it will serve as a central gateway to the region’s economies since Aramco is at the heart of the global oil and gas industry.”