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Smooth passage for Haj pilgrims

In an attempt to streamline the process of sending pilgrims for Haj, the Haj Committee of India (HCI) has introduced an array of procedural reforms this year.

mumbai Updated: Jul 27, 2011 01:56 IST
Aarefa Johari

In an attempt to streamline the process of sending pilgrims for Haj, the Haj Committee of India (HCI) has introduced an array of procedural reforms this year.

These include ensuring that the pilgrims’ are informed of their accomodation well before, chalking out flight schedules two months in advance, making it mandatory for applicants to have a passport, and sending updates to pilgrims via bulk text messages.

Haj, an annual pilgrimage for Muslims around the world, will begin in the first week of November. Of the 1.6 lakh Indians travelling to Mecca this year, 1.15 lakh will be sent through the HCI.

On Monday, the Committee announced that of the 60,000 pilgrims who have applied for lodging in the ‘Green category’ (the highest grade of hotels), accommodation would be available only for 52,000, who will be selected through a lottery.

“Till last year, a large number of pilgrims would pay for higher-grade accommodation , only to find themselves downgraded on reaching Mecca, because of limited availability in that category,” said Shakir Hussain, chief executive officer HCI, which requested the Saudi government to give them details of availability across categories in July itself. “Those who get left out will pay directly for lower-grade hotels instead of having to be refunded after Haj.”

The committee also plans to announce the schedule of special Haj flights from 21 airports in the country on July 29, two months before the departure of the first set of flights. Last year, flights were not finalised even a week before the Haj season began.

HCI has also adopted a strict policy on passports. “So far, people without passports would be selected and then we had to either get temporary Haj passports made for them, or cancel their trip and incur a loss,” said Roohi Khan, HCI’s deputy CEO.

“Through these reforms we are moving towards more systematisation and transparency in the Haj procedure,” said Khan.