Indian pilgrims to benefit from GPS system
First flight to land in Madinah on Aug. 27
JEDDAH — A flight of Saudi Arabian Airlines carrying the first batch of Indian Haj pilgrims who are from Kolkata will land in Madinah on Aug. 27.
Air India will be operating the first flight of Indian pilgrims to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on Sept. 7, according to B.S. Mubarak, Indian consul general.
A total of 360 flights will be operated to transport 136,020 pilgrims from 21 embarkation points.
They include 100,020 under India’s Central Haj Committee and 36,000 who come through private tour operators.
Addressing a press conference at the Consulate on Monday, Mubarak said that a new state-of-the-art navigation system based on Google mapping has been introduced to help Indian pilgrims find their way to their places of accommodation in Makkah and Madinah during the Haj.
The Indian Haj Mission is the first foreign mission in the Kingdom to come up with this innovative Global Positioning System (GPS) application called “Indian Haj Accommodation Locator”.
“We are introducing both web based and mobile app pilgrim location finder systems for this year. The new app will be available for download on iOS and Android smartphones,” he said.
Mubarak, who served earlier as India’s Haj consul for four years from 2008, said that by simply entering the cover number or passport number of the pilgrim, a user-friendly menu will guide the web surfer to the pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah, Mina and Madinah.
“If any pilgrim is not carrying their ID, even their metal bracelet identification tags on their wrists that will be connected to the mobile phone devices of Haj mission officials and volunteers will help them locate the accommodation,” he said.
Replying to a question from Saudi Gazette, Mubarak said that 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.
“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 Makkah and Madinah will also be distributed among the pilgrims from their embarkation points in India,” he said, while announcing that there has been an online complaint management system to help pilgrims lodge their complaints about any services and facilities in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah airport.
According to Mubarak, there are 45,772 Indian women performing Haj this year and 13,127 pilgrims who are aged 70 and above.
“These pilgrims will be transported in the first flights from each embarkation point and they will be given accommodation in the buildings nearest to the Haram.”
The consul general said that pilgrims will be served food at their lodgings in Madinah for the first time.
Each pilgrim under the Haj Committee need to pay SR120 for lunch and dinner that will be served by catering companies at their accommodation.
This is in line with agreements signed between a high-level Indian Haj Committee delegation and six housing groups in Madinah in June.
All pilgrims will be accommodated within the periphery of 850 meters of the Prophet’s Mosque, of which 65 percent will be in the central Haram area, he said.
Mubarak said that nearly two-third of pilgrims (65,000) will be accommodated in Aziziyah while 35,000 will have green category lodging within 1,500 meters of the Grand Mosque.
Uttar Pradesh state is sending the largest number of pilgrims (24,323) while the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli has the lowest number with 26 pilgrims.
Detailing numerous high tech facilities and services 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. A workshop on Google maps has also been organized. “Pilgrims can obtain Adahi coupons from all 13 branch offices of the mission in Makkah and Madinah and the rate is SR490,” Mubarak said, while warning pilgrims not to get cheated into buying bogus coupons from unknown persons.