In a revelation that could ruffle feathers, an investigation by the Middle Eastern Eye discovered that the company commissioned by the Saudi authorities to process applications from potential Hajj pilgrims living in Western countries has received investment from a company whose vice president is close to the Indian government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP ) in power.
Saudi authorities announced a fortnight ago that Hajj candidates from Australia, Europe and the United States should apply for visas through Motawif, the government portal. The move aims to end exploitation by bogus travel agencies and ensure transparency by introducing an automated lottery system for the selection of pilgrims.
Saudi authorities have engaged Traveazy, a Dubai-based company, to facilitate applications from the United States, Australia and Europe through Motawif. It has now emerged that Traveazy has received at least two substantial investments from Accel India, a venture capital firm whose vice chairman Prashanth Prakash is seen as a key BJP ally.
Prakash is currently political and strategic adviser to the Chief Minister of Karnataka Basavaraj Bommai of the BJP. His affinity for the Hindu nationalist party became public when he praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the central government had drawn scathing criticism from the opposition in India and observers around the world about the relentless death toll. – The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that nearly 4.7 million Indians have died from COVID-19 so far.
According to Middle Eastern EyePrakash “led Accel to partner with two other operations when they collectively invested $7 million in Traveazy in 2016, as the Indian company began building its subsidiary Holidayme, and, later in 2018, Umrahme, a company headed by Mohammed MS bin Mahfouz”.
The Middle Eastern Eye reported that in 2018 “Accel was part of a consortium of five partners who invested an additional $16 million in Traveazy, which was co-founded by Indian nationals Geet Bhalla and Digvijay Pratap.”
Prashanth Prakash has served on the National Startup Advisory Council of India since 2020.
Given that Traveazy stands to reap huge monetary dividends by partnering with Motawif, several activists have raised concerns about its ties to a company apparently close to the Indian establishment at a time of anti-Muslim hate crimes in India. have littered the global media space.
New Delhi-based activist Nabiya Khan found the Middle Eastern Eye‘s revelations concerning. The news agency quoted her as saying, “Muslims in Karnataka have been continuously attacked under the BJP…. The personal data of Muslims who applied through the portal could easily end up in the wrong hands…. It is unfortunate that Muslim nations entrust such sensitive information and money to people whose money will end up encouraging the persecution of Muslims in India.
The Saudi government has not yet reacted to the Middle Eastern Eyerevelations.