Jeddah: Central Hajj Committee Chairman AP Abdullakutty has said that the provision of facilities for Indian pilgrims arriving for this year's Hajj in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah has reached its final stage. He was speaking to reporters in Jeddah after visiting Saudi Arabia to assess the facilities for Indian pilgrims. Despite the limited time available for the completion of the Hajj, the Hajj Committee from India and officials from the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia have been working tirelessly to complete the work. Accommodation for Indian pilgrims in Madinah has been completed. This time the Indian pilgrims are staying near the Masjidunnabavi. An agreement has been signed with the hotel authorities for this. Accommodation is provided in Aziziya for all the pilgrims in Makkah, considering the convenience of cooking their own meals. Tender procedures are underway for a cheaper bus service from here to the Masjid-ul-Haram. Hotels and owners in Makkah will complete the acquisition process only after the repairs are completed.
79,362 pilgrims are coming from India for Hajj this year. About 70 per cent of them arrive in Saudi Arabia through the Central Hajj Committee and 30 per cent through private companies. Hajj pilgrims will be flown to Saudi Arabia from India via 10 embarkation points in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kochi, Guwahati and Srinagar. Most of the pilgrims are from Kochi. The Hajj service will be operated by Saudi Arabia, Flynas and SpiceJet. Most of the pilgrims will be flown to Saudi Arabia by a Saudi plane. There has been no significant increase in airfares set for 2019 this time around. The highest ticket price from Guwahati is around Rs 1,25,000. The lowest ticket price is Rs 65,000 from Mumbai. Tickets from Kochi cost around Rs 71,000. It is expected that the cost of Hajj for pilgrims under the Central Hajj Committee will be around Rs 3.5 lakh. The first Hajj flight from India will be on May 31. But it has not been decided where the first plane came from.
Kozhikode Airport was not considered a Hajj embarkation point this time as the 21 existing Hajj embarkation points were reduced to 10. However, AP Abdullakutty said that Kozhikode is the capital of Malabar, and he would make every effort to keep Kozhikode Airport as a Hajj embarkation point next time and to protect the airport in every possible way. He said there was a need to select Kannur Airport as a Hajj embarkation, and the demand would be considered as the number of pilgrims from Kerala increased. Saudi officials have been asked if there is a possibility of any increase in the Hajj quota for India. Abdullakutty said he would join the Indian Hajj Delegation this time. Earlier in his speech on the Hajj in Kozhikode, Abdullakutty had said that the ruler of Dubai had increased the Hajj quota for India. Asked if his name was being touted as the new Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he said, "Do you want him to leave active politics? The most deserving person will soon take over as the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia."