Ahead of the pilgrimage to Mecca, this year, Haj pilgrims from Chhattisgarh have been responding overwhelmingly to the Haj app, a user-friendly mobile application software, designed and launched in the state.
The app, which has inbuilt features for security and safety, aims to inspire confidence and a sense of assurance in Muslims travelling to Mecca, and keep them connected to fellow travellers within their group. The app, which can be operated on low cost handsets with internet facility, is expected to be especially effective during the emergencies that can occur in the course of the event that draws huge crowds from across the world.
Pilgrims can use the app if they or their companions get lost in the crowd, are unable to find the correct route in an unfamiliar place, need to locate their own hotel or other pilgrimage sites, face a language hurdle, or experience any other unexpected difficulty during their roughly 40-day stay in Mecca. In practical terms, this means pilgrims can use the app to navigate when they visit the Haj Mission office at Mecca, the Haram Sharif, the Misfala market or their own accommodation during their stay in the region.
Several apps are currently available at various play stores but few are as useful. "It will serve as a locator, a navigator and also a message box. After registration, the admin can track the movements of all users. In an unfamiliar region, it will assist the pilgrims in a number of ways," said Sajid Memon, CEO of the Chhattisgarh State Haj Committee.
With Whatsapp and the global positioning system (GPS) navigator embedded in it, the Haj app — believed to be the first of its kind developed anywhere in the world — will help locate pilgrims registered as app members, identify where he or she is at any point, and share free messages with members.
Impressed by the initiative, Chief Minister Raman Singh, who launched the app, has decided to enhance the facility for pilgrims. "The Chhattisgarh government will offer mobile phone facilities to Haj pilgrims, who will be the first in the world to use the unique app, to remain in touch with their dear ones," he tweeted. Towards this end, the State Haj Committee will procure around 300 mobile phones and distribute them among the pilgrims free of cost. The phones have to be returned after the pilgrimage so that they can be used by later batches.
The initiative has been welcomed. "It is heartening to find that technology will help Hajees (pilgrims) during the spiritual gathering at Mecca," said Maulana Rahmat-ullah Qazi, an imam, who leads prayers at a mosque in Raipur.
The administration of the app will be based in Chhattisgarh with the user IDs and passwords of 300 individuals from the state, who are undertaking the Haj this year, being registered. This means the administrator can track the movements of pilgrims. In case pilgrims are separated in the crowd, the app, which works on both Windows and Android platforms, can help them track their companions by feeding in an individual’s ID. The message box tool can be used by the administrator to pass instructions and advice. Hajees can also text messages to other members within the group free of cost. Pilgrims can be informed about their proposed flight schedule to India or can seek assistance from the administrator, who can redirect queries to the Mecca office or the Khadimul Hujjaj (facilitator) deputed there.
"The Haj app can work as a toll-free helpline," Memon said. Each pilgrim is expected to save around Rs 10,000 with this app. Smses are free as are receiving calls with this app. The Haj pilgrims of Chhattisgarh will be using the app for the first time in October this year. "We are now getting demands for the app from pilgrims of other countries," Memon said.