Mecca, Saudi Arabia : A record 175,000 Indian pilgrims have descended on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the annual Haj pilgrimage this year, with the massive group being supported by a range of new services and amenities provided by the Indian government.

In a first, around 95% of the 140,020 pilgrims travelling through the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) have been put up in hotels inside the preferred Markazia area of Medina.

All HCoI pilgrims are also being accommodated inside the traditional boundaries of Mina and will be served freshly cooked meals there.

India became the first country to use a high-speed rail line to transport some 33,000 pilgrims from Jeddah to Mecca, cutting travel times significantly with trains running at 300 kph.

Catering to the largest-ever contingent of women pilgrims travelling without a male relative or

“mehram” – over 5,000 this year – separate buildings, branches of hospitals, dispensaries and female staff have been arranged.  

Technology is playing a major role, with the “Haj Suvidha” mobile app providing information and grievance reporting services to Indian pilgrims.

The health-contingent has also been expanded with more doctors, paramedics, dentists and psychiatrists.

In another first, round-the-clock bus services between accommodations in Mecca and the main mosques have been arranged exclusively for Indian pilgrims, a move lauded by Saudi authorities.

With these new facilities and services, the Indian Haj Mission is aiming to ensure a smooth and comfortable pilgrimage for its large contingent which now enjoys a respected position among Haj participants.

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