Riyadh: At least 550 people, including 68 pilgrims from India, have died due to scorching heat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, as reported by international media.

The news agencies, citing two Arab diplomats’ statements, reported on Tuesday that several pilgrims developed health issues and died on account of the heat. The Saudi Arabian authorities are yet to officially release the number of deaths of the pilgrims, although an official read out the names of the pilgrims who had died as well as their nationalities, including Indians, Egyptians and Algerians. Several countries too have reported cases of their pilgrims dying due to the heat in Makkah as well as Jordan and Tunisia. The media has reported that 323 Egyptians had died in the heat in Makkah.

The temperature in the shade at the Grand Mosque, Makkah, went up to 51.8 degrees Celsius on Monday, as reported by the Saudi Arabian media. Prior to the news of pilgrims’ deaths, the local authorities had reportedly not found cases of unnatural death among the Muslim pilgrims, in spite of the high temperature. Onlookers, however, are learned to have mentioned cases of the pilgrims fainting during the symbolic stoning of the devil.

The medical complex in Makkah was found to have been provided strict security and only people claiming to be relatives of the dead were permitted to enter the complex.

The Hajj pilgrimage commenced on Friday this year, with millions of Muslims visiting Makkah annually, and ended on Wednesday. More than 1.83 million Muslims visited Makkah this year, including 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, as per the figures provided by the Saudi Hajj authorities.

Hussein Al-Qahtani, spokesperson for the Saudi National Meteorological Center (NMC) reportedly stated that, following the Saudi Gazette, next year's Hajj will be the last Hajj in the summer season. The Hajj season will enter a new phase of climate change during the year 2026 and summer Hajj would not be held until after 17 years, Qahtani is learned to have declared.

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Bengaluru, Jul 22: Karnataka Labour Minister Santosh Lad on Monday said the proposal to extend the working hours of employees in the IT/ITeS/BPO sector has come from the IT industry, and the government will take a decision after looking into opinions shared by all stakeholders including leaders in the field and employees.

Stating that the IT employees union has expressed their dissent, he urged industry veterans and captains to also come out and share their views.

The proposed 'Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments (Amendment) Bill 2024' seeks to normalise a 14-hour work day. The existing act only allows a maximum of 10 hours work per day including overtime.

"It is not the Minister who has brought himself (the proposed bill). The industry is pressurising. (They) are asking and they want it. Since there is pressure from the industry, the bill has come to us. We are still evaluating it at the Labour department. The question is for all the heads of the industry to discuss this," Lad said.

ALSO READ: Bengaluru IT sector to face 14-hour work day? Employees' Union expresses opposition

Speaking to reporters here, he said: "The matter is in open domain, people are free to discuss this. They (industry leaders) express (opinion) for every thing, so I want all the big heads (of the industry) to debate and express their view. There is dissent from IT employees. I want people to have their opinion. Based on that as a department we will look into what has to be done."

Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees' Union (KITU) that has urged the Siddaramaiah-led government to reconsider the plans to extend the working hours, strongly opposing the proposed amendment which, it said, poses an "attack on the basic right of any worker to have a personal life."

This amendment will allow the companies to go for a two shift system instead of the currently existing three shift system, and one third of the workforce will be thrown out from their employment, it claimed.

To a question on the impact of this proposed extended workers on the health, social and personal life of the employees, the Minister said: "Let the IT heads, the so-called big heads of the country, discuss. For everything they come out. I want the IT heads, IT company owners, Directors -- let them come and share their opinion, whether it is required or not.

The dissent is coming from the union, let the IT industry people, the heads have to speak about it positive or negative, and the government will look into what has to be done."

The IT industry is pressuring the government to go ahead with the proposal, he said. "Without their consent why would we do it suo moto. It is not done by any department, nor by the IT Minister. The pressure is from the IT industry itself, and that's how the proposal has come to us."

Asked as to why the government cannot say that they will not act on the proposal, considering the adverse impact it will have on the employees, the Minister said: "the government has done nothing. The proposal has come from the IT industry, it is good that it is in the public domain, definitely the government and my department in its wisdom will definitely take a call, but let people give their opinion."

Suhas Adiga, General Secretary of the Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union, citing various reports regarding health implication of this proposed move, said as per the current understanding the employees might have to work 80-85 hours in a week.

"This cannot be accepted under any circumstances. We call upon all IT/ITeS Employees and their dependents or family members to come out and resist this," he added.

Targeting the government on the issue, state BJP President B Y Vijayendra said the Congress government in Karnataka has not only made a mockery of themselves but is "leaving no stone unturned to destroy everything in its way."

"While the Siddaramaiah govt itself is in a sleeping mode, it plans to propose a bill that will force the IT sector to work 14 Work Hours A Day, 70 A Week," he posted on 'X'.

"The Congress government (should) better worry about its own under-performing productivity, the collapsing state economy and degrading infrastructure before setting policies for a sector that's efficient & thriving," Vijayendra added.

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