By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 29: The Central government has extended a bonanza for the Haj pilgrims this year permitting them to take as much as 10,000 US dollars as their basic travel quota (BTQ).
This facility is in addition to 2,000 Saudi Riyals already enjoyed by pilgrims visiting the holy shrines in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. Now for the first time, Hajis can take with them as much as 39,000 Saudi Riyals for their comfortable stay in the Kingdom.
"The government used to allow 2000 Saudi Riyals and another 100 US dollars as airport allowance. From this Haj season they can take with them 10,000 US dollars (37,000 Saudi Riyals) as basic travel quota in addition to the already existing 2000 Riyals," says Shaik Mustaq Ali Ahmad, coordinator for Forex distribution for Haj pilgrims in India.
About one lakh pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia through the official Haj Committee and another 60,000 make arrangements on their own through private travel agents. The Haj Committee returns amount equivalent to 2000 Riyals to each of the Hajis from the amount paid by them for travel and lodging.
Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Bank, which has bagged the contract as official banker for Haj 2005-2006, has opened round-the-clock counters at the Haj House in the city and other 14 embarkation points elsewhere in the country.
The Central Haj Committee has cleared the applications of all the 6,385 Hajis from Andhra Pradesh. The largest contingent of Hajis is from Delhi with the National Capital sending around 14,600 pilgrims.
The first flight carrying Hajis will leave eight select points including Hyderabad on December 3 for Madina.
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