By Adbul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: The first batch of Indian Haj pilgrims from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has left to Makkah on Saturday morning with prayers of country’s safety and prosperity. A total of 1230 Haj pilgrims, including pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh departed from Delhi airport in three flights. Besides Delhi, 1020 pilgrims from Srinagar, 900 from Lucknow, 450 pilgrims from Gaya; and 269 from Guwahati have embarked on the Holy journey to Makkah and Madinah.
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi flagged off the first batch of the pilgrims at the Delhi airport who congratulated and extended best wishes to them for their pilgrimage.
On the occasion, Delhi Revenue and Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot, Haj Committee of India Chairman Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser, Delhi Haj Committee Chairman and MLA Mohammad Ishraq Khan, Minority Affairs Ministry Secretary Ameizing Luikham, Joint Secretary Jane Alam and people from all sections of the society were present to bid farewell to the Haj pilgrims.
However, pilgrims faced some problems as the dedicated Haj Terminal at the Delhi airport has been converted into a full-fledged terminal now. Condemning the move, Mufti Mohammad Mukaram, Imam Shahi Masjid Fatehpuri, Delhi said the dedicated Haj terminal should be restored as general terminal will create problems to Haj pilgrims because most of them are first-time flyer.
Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said it has made special arrangements for pilgrims and relatives coming to see them off. An average of 1,600 Haj passengers will travel to Makkah on daily-basis from the Delhi airport, a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, speaking on the occasion, Naqvi claimed that that Ministry of Minority Affairs, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia Haj Consulate, Haj Committee of India and other concerned agencies, had completed “preparations for Haj 2018 well before in time ” to ensure smooth Haj pilgrimage. He said that Haj 2018 is being organized according to the new Haj Policy which has made the entire Haj process “transparent and smooth.”
He also claimed that even after ending the Haj subsidy, Rs 57 crore less is being paid to airlines this year for those Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee of India. The minister also boasted that “despite of removal of Haj subsidy” and various new taxes imposed in Saudi Arabia around 1,75,025 Muslims from India are going to Haj this year that too “without any additional financial burden”. These include more than 47 percent, female pilgrims.
However, contending the minister’s claim of cheaper Haj this year, Bihar state Haj Committee and other state Haj committees have sought an explanation from the minister for the increase of Rs 50,000 to 75,000 in the Green and other pilgrim categories. There are reports from various parts of the country that many intended pilgrims have withdrawn their applications because of overburdening.
According to the Haj Committee of India, a total of 8950 Haj pilgrims are going from Srinagar, 6700 pilgrims from Ahmedabad, 350 from Aurangabad, 5550 from Bengaluru, 254 from Bhopal, 11,700 from Cochin, 4000 from Chennai, 19,000 from Delhi, 5140 from Gaya, 450 from Goa, 2950 from Guwahati, 7600 from Hyderabad, 5500 from Jaipur, 11,610 from Kolkata, 14,500 from Lucknow, 430 from Mangalore, 14,200 from Mumbai, 2800 from Nagpur, 2100 from Ranchi, and 3250 from Varanasi.
Haj Committee of India Chairman, Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser said a total of 3,55,604 applications had been received for Haj 2018 which included 1,89,217 male and 1,66,387 female applicants.
He said a large number of women Haj Coordinators, Haj Assistants and Khadim Ul Hujjaj, doctors and para-medics have been deployed in Saudi Arabia. A total of 98 female Assistant Haj Officers, Haj Assistants Haj Coordinators, doctors and para-medics have been deployed to assist Haj pilgrims.
Jane Alam, Joint Secretary in the Minority Affairs Ministry told Muslim Mirror that for the first time choice of embarkation points has been given to Haj pilgrim which has received overwhelming response. Pilgrims can choose the nearest embarkation point as there are 24 embarkation points across the country and Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have less fare in comparison to other embarkation points, he said.
Haj flights from other destinations will start on July 17, 2018. The schedule is on July 17 pilgrims from Kolkata; on July 20 pilgrims from Varanasi; on 21st July pilgrims from Mangalore; on 26th July pilgrims from Goa; on 29th July pilgrims from Aurangabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Nagpur; on 30th July pilgrims from Ranchi; on 01st August pilgrims from Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Hyderabad and Jaipur and on 3rd August from Bhopal.