Indian pilgrims get ready for annual Haj pilgrimage

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Mumbai, Apr 9 (ANI): Applications for Haj 2010 are pouring in large numbers in the Haj Committee office in Mumbai.

The Haj Committee of India had earlier started the first stage for filling up the forms on April 1. The closing date for the first phase would be April 30.

Muhammed Owasis, Chief Executive Officer, Haj Committee of India said that this year they are expecting almost 400,000 applications from across India. He also said that this year the cost of the pilgrimage is expected to increase.

"According to the agreement between the Indian government and the government of Saudi Arabia, all the Indian Hajis (Pilgrims) who are accommodated in Mecca will now get a little more space. Previously 3.5 square meters was allotted to each person, but from this year four square meters will be given. But obviously the Hajis would have to shell four to five thousand rupees more this year," said Owasis.

There are almost 160 million Muslims in India. According to the stipulated quota of the Haj pilgrims decided by the host Saudi government, this year around 160,000 Muslims from India are expected to perform Haj.

"The forms are easy (to fill) and we are not facing any difficulty in filling them. We have been told to fill the forms exactly the way the passport form is filled, so that even if there is a delay in the passport, they (officials) can start the visa formalities," said Gulam Rasool, an applicant.

Indian Haj pilgrims form one of the largest segments of the annual pilgrimage. Last year, 160,000 pilgrims performed the Haj successfully. They were selected from 357,000 applicants. (ANI)

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