Haj pilgrims from eastern Uttar Pradesh will now be able to fly to Saudi Arabia directly from Varanasi. A decision to this effect was taken by the Union Civil Aviation Ministry on a demand by the Uttar Pradesh government. Lucknow was the first city in the state to start direct Haj flights a few years ago.
“Varanasi would be the second embarking point in the state for 2007 Haj pilgrims,” state Haj Committee chief Naseemuddin Siddiqui told presspersons on September 8.
According to Siddiqui, who is also among Chief Minister Mayawati’s senior most cabinet colleagues, Uttar Pradesh draws the highest number of about 30,000 Haj pilgrims in India.
“Varanasi would cater to about 2,729 Haj pilgrims from Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Ballia, Sant Ravidas Nagar, Chandauli, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Kushinagar, Maharajaganj, Mau, Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Varanasi districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
As many as 8,947 Haj pilgrims are expected to take off from Lucknow, while as many as 18,414 would fly from New Delhi.
Arrangements have also been made for imparting necessary pre-Haj training to the pilgrims by master-trainers from the Haj Committee of India, consulate general of India at Jeddah and the external affairs ministry.
While Haj application forms would be made available at 210 outlets spread across the state, the selection of the pilgrims would be done through a computerized draw of lots.
Names of successful applicants would be available online at www.hajcommittee.com, the official website of the Haj Committee of India.