Pilgrimage made easier

Indian Hajis will have immigration at some embarkation points: CG


Saudi Gazette

AUTHORITIES in Saudi Arabia have given the go-ahead for the Indian Haj Mission to complete immigration procedures for its Haj pilgrims from some embarkation points before flying to the Kingdom, according to Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh.

“Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Benten has offered us this system for the next Haj and we have humbly accepted it. We have started working on introducing immigration for Indian Haj pilgrims from their respective embarkation points for the Haj of 2018,” he said while addressing a function, titled “Team India,” to honor Indian Haj volunteers, organized by the Consulate General of India and Indian Pilgrims Welfare Forum at the consulate premises on Thursday evening.

Sheikh said that as many as 170,000 Indian pilgrims will benefit from the new system. It would be a marked improvement in India’s Haj service that went high-tech with the introduction of highly advanced technological devices with every passing year, he said.

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah had a successful experiment of the immigration pre-clearance facility at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for a section of Malaysian pilgrims for the recent Haj. Malaysian pilgrims were the first in the world using the Proof of Concept (POC) system for pre-clearance at their point of departure to Saudi Arabia.

Malaysian pilgrims boarding 112 flights underwent the whole process of immigration by the Saudi Arabian immigration personnel at KLIA, before taking their flight. This was part of the five-day pilot program from Aug. 24 before applying to pilgrims from other countries in future. As the Malaysian pilgrims arrived at destination in the Kingdom, they passed through a special lane to the baggage pick-up location, thus avoiding the frequent congestion during Haj season especially when pilgrims from several countries arrive at the same time. The Saudi authorities lauded Malaysia for the success of the experiment.

The Indian consul general said that only three countries — Indonesia, India and Malaysia — have introduced e-Haj visa system for their entire Hajis during the last pilgrimage. “Taking advantage of India’s position as a super power in the field of IT, and the prime minister’s ambitious project of ‘Digital India’, the Haj Mission is racing against time to introduce all the benefits of the information technology to its pilgrims.

“There were several thousands of downloads for our Indian Haj information system app during the last Haj. Apart from using Twitter and Facebook accounts and website, this year we introduced WhatsApp for the benefit of Haj pilgrims as well as for those involved in serving them,” Sheikh said adding that the Haj mission has identified certain areas for improvement of its high-tech system for the next Haj.