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More facilities in place for Indian Haj pilgrims this year

Riyadh, Aug 19 (IANS): The Indian consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has introduced a slew of measures, including a high-tech app for Haj pilgrims, aimed at making more comfortable their holy visit to the country scheduled later this month, Consul General B.S. Mubarak has said.

The Indian consul general, in a press briefing in Jeddah Monday, announced the introduction of a new state-of-the-art navigation system based on Google mapping to help Indian pilgrims find their way to their accommodation in Mecca and Medinah during the Haj pilgrimage this year, the Saudi Gazette reported Tuesday.

Consequently, the Indian Haj Mission has become the first foreign mission in Saudi Arabia to come up with this innovative Global Positioning System (GPS) application called "Indian Haj Accommodation Locator".

As many as 360 flights will be operated to transport 136,020 pilgrims, 100,020 of them facilitated by the Indian Central Haj Committee, from 21 embarkation points to Saudi Arabian cities.

Mubarak, who has served as India’s Haj consul for four years, said the mission officials, volunteers and other pilgrims would help elderly pilgrims who are illiterate in electronic communications to take advantage of the location finder system.

The Indian consulate in Jeddah also unveiled a new online complaint management system to help pilgrims lodge their complaints about services and facilities in Mecca, Medinah and Jeddah airport.

"We also keep updating details on Facebook as and when pilgrims start coming and each pilgrim will get an app downloading message upon their arrival in the Kingdom. In addition to Mobily SIM cards, bus tickets for transportation in Mecca and Medinah will also be distributed among the pilgrims from their embarkation points in India," the report quoted Mubarak as saying.

According to Mubarak, there are 45,772 Indian women performing Haj this year and 13,127 pilgrims who are aged 70 and above.

The consul general said the pilgrims would be served food at their lodgings in Medinah for the first time.

In line with agreements between a high-level Indian Haj Committee delegation and six housing groups in Medinah in June, each pilgrim under the Haj Committee needs to pay 120 Saudi riyals (around $32) for their meals.

Mubarak said nearly two-thirds of the pilgrims (65,000) will be accommodated in Aziziyah, a neighbourhood of Mecca, while 35,000 will have green category lodging, a km away from the Grand Mosque.

The highest number of at least 24,323 Haj pilgrims will arrive from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Detailing numerous high tech facilities being introduced for the pilgrims, Mubarak said pilgrims can benefit from a film on practical aspects of Haj and guidelines through YouTube and on board their flights.

Training sessions have also been conducted for 300 Haj volunteers for the first time this year.

Air India is scheduled to operate the first flight of Indian pilgrims to Jeddah Sep 7.