Less than 2,000 of the 4,265 Haj pilgrims from Rajasthan have applied for the mandatory temporary passports
The Haj Committee of India has appealed to the people in Rajasthan selected for this year’s Haj pilgrimage to submit their applications for issue of international passport for journey to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah to meet the requirement set down by the Saudi Arabian Government. The Haj pilgrims were earlier allowed to travel with a special permit and no special passport was required.
Haj Committee of India member Maulana Moazzam Ahmed told reporters here that special arrangements have been made for issuing temporary passports for eight months’ duration to the pilgrims to facilitate their journey with the help of the Union Ministry of External Affairs. The last date for submission of applications is August 31.
While nearly 60,000 applications submitted to different Regional Passport Officers across the country are passing through various stages of scrutiny, the Haj Committee of India has received 30,000 passports and the State Haj Committees have taken the delivery of 10,000. A large number of prospective Haj pilgrims have not submitted their applications yet.
Of the 1.15-lakh pilgrims selected from across the country through draw of lots for this year’s Haj, 4,265 are from Rajasthan. Mr. Ahmed pointed out that less than 2,000 of them had applied so far for temporary passports.
“The careless pilgrims are going to face hardships in the absence of international passports. They will not be allowed to board the Haj flights and their air travel tickets will be cancelled,” said Mr. Ahmed, adding that the Saudi Arabian condition for passports had been announced at the end of last year’s Haj.
The Haj Committee of India will send about 42,000 pilgrims through Saudi Arabian Airlines and 75,000 through Air India flights from 17 embarkation points across the country, including Jaipur. The first Haj flight from India will leave on October 20.
Mr. Ahmed pointed out that the Saudi Arabian Government had relaxed its restrictions on journey by children, elderly people and pregnant women due to the risk of A(H1N1) virus infection following the Haj Committee of India taking up the issue: “If the influenza vaccine is made available before the Haj pilgrimage, it will be compulsory to inoculate the travellers.”
Mr. Ahmed also drew the pilgrims’ attention to large-scale demolitions carried out around the main mosque in Makkah for expansion of the complex, which had led to the accommodation being arranged at a greater distance and at higher rentals. The Haj Committee of India has hired about 95,000 accommodation units for Indian pilgrims travelling to the holy city.