The first batch of Haj pilgrims from Kerala under government supervision left Karipur for Madina on Thursday. Malappuram Collector M.C. Mohandas flagged off the flight SV-5537 at 11.30 a.m.

The flight, Airbus 300 operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines, took off from Calicut International Airport, Karipur, at 12.35 p.m. carrying 300 pilgrims on board. As many as 170 of them were women.

Central Haj Committee vice-chairman V. Aboobacker was the chief guest at the low-key function. The current local body elections in the State kept away political leaders from the function. State Haj Committee chairman P.T.A. Rahim, former chairman A.K. Abdul Hameed and several members of the State and Central Haj committees were present.

Mr. Aboobacker said efforts would be made to increase the Haj quota. Kerala is likely to get some more seats from the Central quota this year, he said.

The second Haj flight left Karipur at 4 p.m. with 350 pilgrims on board. Saudi Arabian Airlines is operating 29 flights to carry 9,000-odd pilgrims from Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mahe to Madina. Karipur is the embarkation point for them.

P. Kumaran, Saudi Arabian Airlines manager in Kozhikode, said the airline would press three types of aircraft for the Haj operation. Boeing 767 and Airbus 300 will carry 300 pilgrims each while Airbus 330 will carry 350 pilgrims. There will be two flights every day. On October 25, there will be three flights. Flight SV-5537 will leave at 12 noon and flight SV-5523 at 3 p.m.

A part of the domestic terminal of the airport has been kept aside for Haj operations. Arrangements have been made for speedy emigration and customs clearance of the pilgrims. The fifth bay of the airport has been kept apart exclusively for the pilgrims.

As the pilgrims are being flown to Madina, they need not enter into Ihram from Karipur. Ihram is a sacred state compulsory for Haj and Umra by wearing two seamless sheets of clothes.

Malappuram Kazi O.P.M. Sayed Muthukoya Thangal exhorted the pilgrims to prepare themselves to lead a new life after Haj. “The Haj should make a huge difference in their lives,” he said in a statement.

He advised the Hajis to turn themselves as examples of discipline. He praised the efforts of government officials and volunteers in providing facilities for the pilgrims. Mr. Thangal called upon the people to pray for the safety and convenience of the pilgrims.