Union Minister for Minority Affairs K Rehman Khan, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to India Saud Mohammed Al-Sati and Chairman of Delhi Haj Committee Parvez Mian were present at a function organized to see off the first batch at the Indira Gandhi International airport.
    
The batch mainly from Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh areas like Meerut and Bagpat, left for Medina in a Saudi Arabian flight at 2.20 PM from the Haj Terminal, a Delhi Haj Committee official said.
    
Wishing the pilgrims, Dikshit said that Delhi Haj Committee has been deeply involved in making all arrangements for Haj pilgrimage. The second batch, consisting of 447 pilgrims, will depart for Medina also by Saudi Arabian flight at 11 PM, the official said, adding today 900 Hajis were scheduled to embark on Haj.

But he said that some of the Hajis from Muzaffarnagar may have to miss their flight due to curfew in that area. A total of 22,000 pilgrims from Delhi and adjoining areas are supposed to go for Haj and the last flight will take off on September 27, the official said.

Around 1,36,020 Hajis are expected to go for Haj this year after Saudi Arabia slashed by 20 per cent the quota for all foreign pilgrims, including from India, to facilitate the infrastructure work being carried out around the sacred site of 'Haram Sharif' and to keep the area safe and secure for pilgrims.
    
Under the India-Saudi Arabia bilateral agreement on Haj 2013, inked in March in Jeddah, the quota for India was fixed at 1,70,025 seats -- comprising 125,025 seats for the Haj Committee of India, Mumbai, and 45,000 for pilgrims going through private tour operators.
    
But the Saudi authorities in June announced a 50 per cent cut in the Haj quota on local Saudi applicants and 20 per cent on foreign Haj pilgrims, due to which India's quota went down from 1,70,025 seats to 1,36,020 seats.

(Agencies)

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