Airfare hike not to affect Indian Haj pilgrims

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New Delhi, Nov 2: The Centre today announced that the airfare for Haj Pilgrims during the 2007 season will not be hiked, notwithstanding the increase in airfare and fuel prices.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to subsidise the increase in the airfare, instead of passing it onto the pilgrims.

Airfare for the round trip to Jeddah/Madina will remain at Rs 12,000 as in the last season and the remaining cost due to increase in the airfare would be paid as subsidy by the central government, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told mediapersons. The pilgrims would have to pay airport tax levied by Saudi government at the rate of 50 SAR per passenger.

He said the decision would benefit about 110,000 pilgrims from different parts of the country.

Mr Dasmunsi said the government subsidy on account of airfares of Haj pilgrims was Rs 343 crore last year. It would go up to Rs 368 crore this year due to increase in the airfares from India to Jeddah/Madina.

Varanasi has been included as an embarkation point for Haj 2007. Mr Dasmunsi said the movement of Haj pilgrims from India to Saudi Arabia during Haj 2007 would commence this month.

Air India and Saudi Arabian Airlines would together manage the air transportation of pilgrims. He said Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) would transport up to 59,000 pilgrims from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.

Transportation of remaining pilgrims would be undertaken by Air India from Lucknow, Kolkata, Calicut, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Patna, Guwahati, Jaipur, Srinagar and Varanasi.


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