There is good news for the highest ever number of Haj pilgrims from the state this year.
The 9,100 Haj pilgrims can now board a direct flight from Srinagar to Saudi Arabia unlike the past when they had to board the Jeddah flight from Delhi.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said that come September 17, Indian Airlines would be flying directly from Srinagar to the holy land for this year's Haj pilgrimage.
It was in 2009 when the first international flight took off from Srinagar airport to Dubai after being inaugurated by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But the optimism did not last long as all international flights were grounded owing to various reasons, including objections by Pakistan over using its airspace.
"The direct operations of Haj flights by the Indian Airlines would make the pilgrimage smooth and relieve the intending Haj pilgrims of the burden of transshipment from one aircraft to another," said Omar Abdullah who is also the chairman of the J&K State Haj Committee.
The Haj quota for the state has been increased from last year's 8441 to 8670 this year, which is the highest in the last four years. In addition to this, private Haj operators are facilitating 500 Haj pilgrims.
Directing the state Haj committee to provide the best facilities to the Haj pilgrims, the CM said that every care should be taken for their accommodation, immigration and custom clearance.
"The committee shall publish a guide book for the pilgrims indicating details of the facilities, emergency service, enquiry and related issues that would prove helpful to them in Saudi Arabia," said an official spokesman quoting CM.
Abdullah also directed for providing SIM cards as introduced during Haj-2011 to Khudam-ul-Hujaj (caretakers and guides) so that pilgrims could contact them in the hour of need.
Commissioner secretary Haj and Auqaf, B A Runiyal gave details of the arrangements for Haj-2012.
He said that the first Haj flight will take off on September 17 this year and each day 270 pilgrims will be flown from Srinagar to Saudi Arabia.
He said one flight is scheduled for one day. However, he added that two Haj flights would be operated for eight days.