Haj 2018: Batch 1, Takes Off

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by Tahir Bhat and Bilal Bahadur

SRINAGAR: The first batch of Mecca pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir took off from Srinagar on Saturday. The first batch of 820 pilgrims mostly from south Kashmir left Haj House early morning. Governor N N Vohra flagged them off at the Srinagar airport.

Haj 2018: The first batch at the Srinagar airport. KL Image Bilal Bahadur

This year, a total of 10183 Muslims will be performing Haj through the state Haj Committee. “This is the highest number of pilgrims since 2006 when 10,500 pilgrims had flown to Saudi Arabia for Haj,” Haj Officer Syed Qamar Sajad said.  “They will travel in daily flights during July 14, and July 25, embarking from the Srinagar International Airport.”

These direct flights will be landing in Madina.

The district wise number of pilgrims suggests that Srinagar is topping the list with 1634. This year, Jammu has 116, Doda 200, Udhampur 64, Samba 22, Reasi 99, Ramban 186, Rajouri 409, Poonch 341, Kishtwar 126, Kathua 71, Kargil 101, Leh 24, Shopian 403, Pulwama 794, Kupwara 902, Kulgam 523, Ganderbal 375, Bugam 917, Baramulla 1235, Bandipora 423 and 1218 from south Kashmir Anantnag.

Pilgrims from the first batch leaving for airport from Haj House Srinagar. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“This year, we had 1951 berths exclusively for intending pilgrims who were seventy plus,” Sajjad said. “All the remaining seats were fairly distributed among districts on basis of the population.” However, in case of Rajouri where there were fewer applicants and more seats, the surplus was distributed among other districts.

Pilgrims being seen off by their relatives at Srinagar. KL Image Bilal Bahadur

Even though the number of seats was slightly better in comparison, two out of every three applicants could not make it through the Haj Committee. Officials said they had more than 32000 applications in 2018 against whom the actual seat availability was only 10 thousand plus.

Pilgrims crowd around the booth at the Haj House for currency exchange. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Officials said governor N N Vohra interacted with a number of pilgrims and wished them a safe journey and a highly satisfying Haj. Adviser Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, State Police Chief S P Vaid, and other officials accompanied Vohra.

Pilgrims were driven in the buses to the airport after the luggage check at the Haj House. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The pilgrims reported to the Haj House – most of them stayed there for the night, and were driven to the airport early morning.  The first batch was flown by four Air India flights to the West Asian nation. The last flight of Haj pilgrims will leave on July 25.

For some of the pilgrims, disabilities do not matter. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The first flight carrying the pilgrims will return Srinagar on August 25 and the last on September 7.

At Haj House, the authorities were asked to add a few more booths for the currency exchange. There was huge rush and it took time for the pilgrims to take the Saudi Riyals. Every one of them got 2100 Saudi Riyals which is equivalent to Rs 35000, officials said.

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