Expansion work at Haram Shareef cuts 35000 Indian Haj pilgrims this year

Mangaluru: Saudi Arabia has cut back quota for pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah up to 30% this year across country.

The number of pilgrims of Muslim nations and other countries that may perform the Haj this year has been reduced due to construction work aimed at expanding the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Islam’s holiest site.

According to a report published in TOI, against the annual quota of 1.45 lakh pilgrims through Haj committees in states, and 35,000 that private tour operators take India will be able to send 1,00,020 pilgrims through the committees and 34,000 in private this year, said MM Ahmad, vice-chairman of the Haj Committee of India.

India and the rest of the Muslim nations are optimistic the quota will be reinstate, if not enhanced, in time for Haj in 2016, said Ahmad, while flagging off the first batch of 134 of 666 pilgrims who will go on board for Haj.

The authorities had decided to reduce by half the number of pilgrims coming from within the Kingdom.

The Haj Committee of India on the other hand has made all arrangements to make sure that Indian Haj pilgrims are looked after well during their pilgrimage, said Ahmad.

“We have arrangements with Saudi Airlines and a local catering group there will employ Indian cooks to provide home food to Indians,” he said.

Two categories — Greens and Aziziya — for the benefit of pilgrims were also by the Haj Committee.

While pilgrims in the Aziziya group need to pay Rs 1.83 lakh, those in the Greens group have to shell out Rs 2.13 lakh. The pilgrims in the Greens group will be housed in accommodation very near to the Grand Mosque in Medina and will start their Haj pilgrimage from there, and the rest in accommodation somewhat farther from the mosque, Ahmad noted.

In Makkah too, due care has been taken to provide suitable accommodation to the pilgrims, he said as they may always get in touch with the liaison officers – one for every 300 pilgrims that the Committee is sending.