Housing pre-allotment benefits Indian pilgrims in Madinah, says ambassador

July 06, 2019

Hassan Cheruppa

Saudi Gazette

Pre-allotment of buildings in Madinah is one of the key improvements made in the facilities and services being offered to pilgrims from India this year, according to Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed.

Addressing a press conference here, Sayeed and Consul General Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh said the Haj Mission has been successful in streamlining all the arrangements despite an increase in the number of pilgrims. The Indian pilgrimage quota was enhanced to 200,000 this year from 170,000 in 2018.

Haj Consul Y. Sabir also attended the press meet held at the conference hall of the Consulate General of India on Saturday.

Indian pilgrims started arriving in Madinah from Thursday and more than 20 charter flights have so far landed in Madinah, carrying over 5,000 Indian pilgrims.

"For the first time, we have introduced pre-allotment of buildings in Madinah whereby rooms of pilgrims are allotted prior to their departure from India. The pre-allotment has eased the movement of pilgrims and check-in procedures in Madinah. As the pilgrims already knew about the buildings and rooms allotted to them, the time required for completing the check-in has been drastically reduced,” the ambassador said.

The pre-allotment system has been in force in Makkah for many years.

Also, for the first time, the Haj Committee of India (HCI) has put tags on the baggage of pilgrims marking the accommodation details along with the room allotted to them.

Dr. Sayeed thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for increasing the Haj quota, which is the largest ever allowed for Indian pilgrims so far.

Out of the total quota of 200,000, 140,000 pilgrims will be coming through the Haj Committee of India and the remaining 60,000 through the Haj Group Organizers (HGOs).

The ambassador and consul general said this year a record number of 2,332 women pilgrims, who are above 45 years of age, are coming to perform Haj without a mahram, or blood relative, accompanying them. Last year, the number of such pilgrims stood at 1,300.

“A full contingent of 101 women officials, including two assistant Haj officers, 14 Haj assistants, 36 doctors and 49 paramedics, are deputed to serve exclusively the women pilgrims. A separate branch office and dispensary manned by women officials have been set up to provide assistance to them,” the ambassador said.

In Makkah, an overwhelming majority of 121,909 pilgrims have opted for accommodation in the Aziziyah category this year while the Non-Cooking and Non-Transportation (NCNT) category buildings, which are located up to 1,000 meters from the outermost periphery of the Grand Mosque, account for 15,772 pilgrims. Another 2,319 pilgrims will be accommodated in the rubats of Hyderabad, Tonk, Bhopal, Arcot and Bohra.

The latest 2018 and 2019 model buses have been hired to provide hassle-free and comfortable transportation for the pilgrims between their accommodation and the Haram as well as for their movement between the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

Dr. Sayeed said the online OPD System, called “e-MASIHA (Medical Assistance System for Indian Hajis Abroad), which was developed by the consulate last year, was further strengthened this year by bringing in-patient pilgrims under its coverage.

Regarding the Makkah Route initiative, Dr. Sayeed said preparations were already under way to take advantage of the ambitious initiative. “I had discussions with India’s Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the civil aviation secretary and other top officials about this initiative. We are committed to get our pilgrims included under this initiative in a gradual manner,” he said, adding that some elements of the immigration pre-clearance such as pre-allotment of accommodation and baggage-tagging were introduced this year, in addition to certain logistic changes needed to be made in India.

Referring to the new features added to the “Indian Haji Information System” app, developed by the consulate, the ambassador said the app has been further enhanced to include a new feature for taking feedback from the pilgrims.

“When I met Saudi Arabia's Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten, he directed me to have the feedback of pilgrims through this app, and this is a good signal that the Saudi authorities are keen on this,” Dr. Sayeed said, while pointing out that the app has contributed significantly in enhancing the quality of services being rendered to the pilgrims.

Dr. Sayeed unveiled plans to recommend the app for Web Ratna Award as it has been proved as an excellent technology used for the larger benefits of society.

Apart from the app, the Haj Mission also makes available its regularly updated website, Facebook page, Twitter, Daily Bulletin Video, Infographics, 24X7 Toll Free No. (8002477786), WhatsApp No. (00966543891481), Helpline Nos. (00966-12-5458000 and 00966-12-5496000), Online Complaint Redressal & Management System for serving the pilgrims.

Referring to the facilities in Mina, Dr. Sayeed and Sheikh said all the pilgrims under the Haj Committee would have their accommodation within the traditional boundaries of Mina. They also said the number of pilgrims in tents with bunk beds will be increased from 17 and 18 last year to 20 this year.

“We are regularly interacting with the tawafa organization to ensure the quality of the buffet meals, taking into account of the culinary tastes of the pilgrims from all parts of the country,” Sheikh added.

July 06, 2019
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