The Maharashtra State Haj Committee has launched an online service for pilgrims embarking on the 45-day long journey to Mecca this year. Starting this July, the service will allow 2,800 pilgrims from Vidarbha and neighbouring states to directly report at the airport and proceed for immigration checks. Earlier, pilgrims were forced to plan temporary stays in Mumbai, or put up at Hajj houses two days before their flights.
As of 2019, India has 22 embarkation points divided into two schedules, with busy Mumbai being present in both schedules. The new system intends to bypass the hurdle of looking for short-term accommodation, said Jamaal Siddiqui, the Committee&rsquos Chairman.
&ldquoTheir baggage would reach and (be) scanned at the airport a day before their scheduled departure. Check-in formalities and baggage clearance used to force pilgrims to leave their homes two days before their journey. This not only poses challenges for them but also (is an) inconvenience to their local relatives or acquaintances,&rdquo Siddiqui told the Times of India.
Those reporting online will also be assisted by volunteers from NGOs called &lsquoHaji Dosts&rsquo, and be directly handed their boarding slips, hand bags and check-in slips at the immigration counter. The venture eases the burden for just 1.4 per cent of India&rsquos 200,000 Hajj pilgrims in 2019, but positive feedback may just induce systemic upgrades in the future.
This year&rsquos group also includes 131 women travelling solo they were previously not allowed to embark on the pilgrimage without Mehram (a male companion), and will make the journey in groups of four.