For the first time, Haj has been shortened by almost a week this year, thanks to inflation. The first contingent of Hajis will leave from the city to Saudi Arabia on Monday. But despite a shorter trip, the Haj Committee of India (HCI) has not reduced their charges.
While usually pilgrims get to stay in the holy city for 40 to 45 days, depending on their flight bookings, this year their overall stay has been reduced to approximately 36 days.
“Since they have shortened the trip, they should at least give us additional spending money there. An allowance of 2,100 Saudi Riyals (Rs 27,526) is not sufficient for the entire trip,” said Yusuf Khan, a Jogeshwari resident who is leaving for the pilgrimage on October 22 with his wife.
HCI said inflation and bulk flight bookings were the root cause of the problem. “The cost of accommodation in Mecca and Madina has almost doubled. One additional week would mean extra expenses on food, stay and other purchases,” said Haji Ebrahim Shaikh (Bhaijaan), Maharashtra state coordinator of the HCI.
“We will make up for the reduced stay by providing them other facilities such as SIM cards and unique luggage codes.” Most Indian Muslims opt for HCI because of its subsidised booking rates. This year, 1.6 lakh Hajis from the country have booked their packages though the HCI, of which 10,600 are from Maharashtra.
“We had to make bookings for flights and accommodation for 1.6 Hajis. Depending on the availability of flights, we had to design the packages,” said Roohi Khan, deputy chief executive officer, HCI. At Mumtaz Kazi's residence in Sion's railway quarters, packing is on in full swing. Kazi, who is South Asia’s first woman diesel engine driver, will be leaving for Haj on October 19.
“My dream has finally come true. Even if it is only for 36 days, I will ensure that I make use of the trip,” said Kazi, adding that she will demand for a refund if required once she returned.