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Haj pilgrims to pay more

Indian Muslims planning to undertake the Haj pilgrimage this year would have to pay more money for their accommodation at Makkah, reports Aurangzeb Naqshbandi.
By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 17, 2008 01:50 AM IST

Indian Muslims planning to undertake the Haj pilgrimage this year would have to pay more money for their accommodation at Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

The escalation of cost and the shortage of accommodation would also result in the 'downgrading' of some pilgrims from second to third category. From this year, there would only be three categories of accommodation, instead of the previous five.

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Haj Committee of India (HCOI) vice-chairperson Hasan Ahmed said that hundreds of buildings have been demolished in the Shamia area near Haram Sharief under the Makkah Mukarramah development and expansion project. “This has resulted in a shortfall of buildings near Haram Sharief and it has become increasingly difficult to get accommodation.”

Ahmed said the Saudi authorities have indicated that they would be increasing the rent in view of the increasing costs. “This will force us to do the same. Pilgrims should also keep in mind that accommodation in Makkah Mukarramah has become very costly and it is very difficult to obtain units at cheaper prices,” he added.

He also said that the Saudi government was likely to raise the Haj quota for India by 15,000 from this year. “We have demanded that the enhanced quota should be given to the HCOI, and not to private operators,” he added. India had appealed to Saudi Arabia to increase its quota by 15,000.

Ahmed also said that the Haj Committee would have to increase the fee for the pilgrimage in the future. At present,the HCOI charges Rs 60,000-80,000 from the pilgrims while it returns Rs 20,000 in foreign exchange, which is the subsidy given by the government, on completion of the pilgrimage.

About 1,57,000 pilgrims from India undertake the Haj pilgrimage annually.

Of these, 1,10,000 are sent by the HCOI while the remaining 47,000 are sent by private operators.

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