NRC led to fall in Haj pilgrims: Official

Nekibur Zaman in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by Manash Das

Guwahati: Officials on Wednesday attributed the fall in the number of Haj pilgrims from the Northeast this year to the preparation of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

"The number of pilgrims has decreased this year as most of the people are busy with NRC-related work or are waiting for publication of the final draft. The withdrawal of government subsidy has led to increase in cost by around Rs 40,000 per pilgrim, which is also responsible for the drop in the number of applicants," Nekibur Zaman, executive chairman of North East Haj Pilgrims' Reception Committee, said.

Altogether 3,357 pilgrims from the region, including 3,272 from Assam, will undertake the journey this year, a drop of around 900 from last year.

Zaman also pointed to the increase in various taxes in Saudi Arabia and demonetisation in India for the decrease in the number of pilgrims.

The Assam government will provide around 4,000 gamosas to Haj pilgrims as a mark of identity. Pilgrims will wear a gamosa on the shoulder and another gamosa will be put up in the hotels booked for Assamese pilgrims in Jeddah, Zaman said.

The pilgrims will leave from here on Saturday and the return journey from Jeddah will be on August 27.

Of the 3,357 pilgrims, 2,302 are men and 1,055 are women. The highest number of 376 pilgrims from Cachar district, followed by 351 from Karimganj and 268 pilgrims from Hailakandi district.

For pilgrims who want to travel from Calcutta, the state government has prepared a special plan.

Legislators Aminul Haque Laskar and Anwar Hussain Laskar will be present in Calcutta for assisting these pilgrims, Zaman said.

"Doctors and paramedical staff will be available on every flight. We have already discussed with the airline operator and asked them to take all measures. The airline will have to provide food and lodging if any flight is delayed or any other problems arise beyond the control of the pilgrims," he said.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday announced his government would set up a control room at Dispur for the Haj pilgrims, which will look after all issues and maintain contact with officials.


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