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New steps to increase pilgrims' comfort, says Kidwai.

Summary: JEDDAH: The Consulate General of India has introduced new measures this year to make the pilgrimage more comfortable and smooth for Indian pilgrims.

Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai said here on Sunday that measures are in place to expedite clearance of pilgrims arriving at the airport. "Now on an average pilgrims are cleared in four hours at Haj Terminal in Jeddah," the consul general said. To reduce airport clearance time, immigration forms are being provided to the pilgrims in advance at ports of embarkation so they can fill and submit them at the immigration counters at Jeddah and Madinah, he said. The Haj Committee of India (HCI) is issuing identification cards to the pilgrims. Accommodation details in Makkah are on a sheet that is pasted on the back of the pilgrims' ID cards. This increased information will help in identifying the accommodation of lost pilgrims. "As of now around 1,090 cases of missing pilgrims have been handled. The pilgrims were sent back to their accommodation within 24 hours," the consul general said. He said as of now over 330 cases of cash loss have been dealt with and compensation to the pilgrims has been provided through the Indian Pilgrims Welfare Fund (IPWF). The IPWF volunteers are distributing ihram and prayer mats to the pilgrims. Following complaints about hygiene conditions of the buildings in Makkah, an agreement has been reached with an agency for cleaning, plumbing and other services of the buildings, in case, if the owner fails to provide these services. "This year, an agency has been engaged by the consulate after getting permission from the HCI to provide cleaning and other services in case the building owner/agency does not provide these services. Similarly, another agency has been engaged to provide water in case of a shortage," Kidwai said. The consul general said that as of Saturday, out of 1,25,000 pilgrims who are expected to come through the HCI, 93,484 pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia. Of these 35,014 pilgrims had arrived in Jeddah and 58,471 pilgrims in Madinah aboard 328 flights. Flights in the second phase have started arriving at Jeddah Haj Terminal from Oct. 17, and are bringing pilgrims from the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Out of the 620 buildings hired in Makkah, 433 buildings are already occupied. A total of 1,70,491 Indian pilgrims are scheduled to perform the pilgrimage this year. Kidwai said the problem of pilgrims' baggage on their return journey is being addressed. "This year the consulate has streamlined the process, by arranging with a cargo company to collect pilgrims' baggage from their buildings during the return phase," he said. "Two pieces of baggage, weighing 45 kg, would be collected from the pilgrims 24 hours prior to their flight departure and baggage tags would be issued. A 10-liter can of Zamzam, tagged with their baggage, will also be collected. The baggage will then be loaded onto the pilgrims flight, with the pilgrims collecting them on reaching their destination," Kidwai said. The consul general said that as of Sunday, 40 Indian pilgrims died of natural causes and have been buried in the holy cities. "Some 16,000 pilgrims are above 70 years of age while last year their number was 11,000," he said. A couple from Uttar Pradesh, Khaliq Ahmad and Swaleha, were blessed with the birth of a baby girl on Oct. 13 in Madinah. The girl has been named Taiba, the consul general said.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Oct 24, 2011
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