JEDDAH: HABIB SHAIKH
Published — Thursday 5 September 2013
Last update 5 September 2013 5:33 am
The first group of Indian Haj pilgrims arrive in Madinah on Saturday on an Air India flight from Goa.
This is according to E. A. Ahamed, Indian minister of state for external affairs, who spoke to journalists at a press conference at the consulate in Jeddah Wednesday. Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai also attended the press conference.
The first flight from Ranchi arrives on Sept. 16 in Jeddah.
Ahamed said that Saudi Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar welcomed the arrangements made by the Indian government for its Haj pilgrims. The two men had a “very cordial, positive and fruitful” 45-minute meeting in Jeddah.
Ahamed said there were no major problems or issues, but just some minor points that Hajjar said he would look into.
“For example, we received a communication from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) that they intend to reduce the quantity of Zamzam carried by pilgrims on return flights from 10 liters to five liters. According to the Indian Mission this is in violation of the agreement between India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation and GACA,” Ahamed said.
The minister added that Hajjar said he had not instructed his ministry to introduce such a stipulation.
Ahamed said they have agreed to give metro train tickets to all Indian pilgrims coming through the Central Haj Committee for stations one and two. Indian pilgrims will not use station three because it is 3 km from their accommodation.
He said 136,020 pilgrims would come from India, of which 121,420 will be through the Central Haj Committee and 14,600 through private tour operators.
Saudi Arabian Airlines will operate from nine locations in India bringing in 74,090 pilgrims, whereas Air India will operate from 12 locations and fly in 47,330 pilgrims.
Saudia will operate flights from Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Calicut, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Jaipur to Jeddah; and from New Delhi, Lucknow and Varanasi to Madinah.
Air India will operate flights from Aurangabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Ranchi, Indore, Nagpur and Gaya to Jeddah; and from Guwahati, Kolkata, Mangalore, Goa and Srinagar to Madinah.
He said that Mobily SIM cards with SR5 talk time, with preloaded numbers of important Haj officials, would be given free to pilgrims at embarkation points in India. Gas will be refilled free twice in Makkah buildings.
For the first time, each pilgrim will be given a 750-gram packet of dates on arrival in Makkah and Madinah.
Ahamed said he was in Makkah on Monday and was satisfied with all arrangements including at the hospital, branch offices and dispensary. He said everything was in place in Madinah too.
He urged Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia not to perform Haj without valid papers. The minister said they should abide by the rules and regulations of the Kingdom.