360 pilgrims back out of Haj
By Express News Service - HYDERABAD
09th August 2012 08:05 AM
The Haj pilgrimage is almost two months away but already cancellations have started with hundreds of people backing out due to the steep rise in costs. According to officials, as many as 360 have opted out after applying.
The declining value of the rupee in the international market has thrown the plans of these pilgrims out of gear. Besides, the increase in airfare and accommodation costs also forced them to cancel their trip. When prices were fixed in July this year, one riyal cost as much as Rs 15.23 compared to last year’s 12.94. As a result, pilgrims had to shell out more than Rs 40,000 for the trip. “The rise in prices has to some extent played a role in the cancellations this year,” admitted Abdul Hameed, Executive Officer, Andhra Pradesh State Haj Committee. He cited an unstable rupee, increase in airfare by at least Rs 4,000 in addition to the accommodation cost in Saudi Arabia as possible reasons for the cancellations.
Haj pilgrims travelling under the Azizia category have to pay Rs 1,33,950 while those under the green category will have to shell out Rs 1,62,600. Last year, the figures for the same were Rs 1,07000 and Rs 1,20,000 respectively. Price for the Azizia category is lower as pilgrims are provided accommodation 7 - 8 km away from the place of worship.
“I didn’t expect more than Rs 20,000 increase, but I had to cancel as the amount doubled this year. I will apply next year,” said Syed Shafi, a resident of old Malakpet. “Originally, five of us were planning to go for Haj this year, but an increase of Rs 40,000 per head means Rs 2 lakh more, and we can’t afford that. So only three of us will go this year,” said Zohra Ansar, a resident of East Marredpally. Hameed explained that each year cancellations take place as pilgrims back out owing to family, personal, and health problems, but this year, the financial constraint also had to be factored in.
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