Muscat: Buses which are more than 10 years old have been barred from ferrying pilgrims for Haj or Umrah. The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs has recently issued a decision in this regard.
A reliable source at the ministry told Times of Oman that the decision was aimed at preventing accidents during the pilgrimage.
"The decision will force transport operators to use modern buses," said the source, while adding that passengers would be more comfortable in new buses.
There have been many accidents involving pilgrims in the past and the ministry is determined to ensure the safety of pilgrims and their families, the source said. "Some buses used by companies for transporting pilgrims are really in a bad shape," said Abdul Rahim Al Sinani, an Amerat resident.
The ministry's website offers a link for getting the requisite information on Haj and Umrah transporters and it also helps the ministry keep tabs on them. "The link was closed recently after the data was upgraded," said the source. Of the hundreds of Haj trips, only 229 have been approved by the ministry and are mentioned on its website.
"The ministry website provides guidelines in English and Arabic on how to attend Haj and Umrah," said the source.
The ministry provides many online services for the public, especially as the Holy Month of Ramadan nears and pilgrims flock to perform Umrah.
Meanwhile, a tour operator, who declined to be identified, told Times of Oman that he was not aware about the ministry's new decision. He added that he provides new buses and offers best services to the pilgrims.
Hassan Bava, working at the Islamic Study Center in Ruwi, said that the centre has already sponsored several Umrah trips. "We have undertaken six Umrah trips so far and the next Umrah trip would be in May. Fifty pilgrims have registered for the trip," informed Hassan.
He claimed that his company had not received any guidelines from the ministry though his company hires new buses for pilgrimage.
"We deal with the best transport operator, as we hire new buses for our trips," said Hassan. "We will adhere to any ministerial decision," said Hassan.
Additionally, the Ministry of Health has issued guidelines for the safety of pilgrims.
"The ministry is planning to deploy doctors to take care of pilgrims," said a reliable source at the Ministry of Health.
Ahmed Al Hasni, a citizen, said this decision would help in reducing accidents.
Al Hasni added that the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs should also ask bus drivers to undertake driving lessons.
Badr Al Kharoosi, a bus driver, told Times of Oman that his bus was more than 10 years old and this decision by the ministry will impact his business.
"I have to take some loan to buy an old bus for business purpose. I am the sole breadwinner of my family. This decision will hurt my business," said Al Kharoosi.
To get in touch with the reporter: Fahadnews@timesofoman.com