Jeddah: The first group of 419 Indian pilgrims for the upcoming Haj have arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, according to a media report.

Indian Ambassador Ausaf Sayeed, Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh and Haj Consul Y Sabir received the pilgrims on arrival at the Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on Thursday, the Saudi Gazette reported.

In a significant step, Saudi Arabia increased India's Haj quota from 170,000 to 200,000, paving the way for 30,000 more Indians to go for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in the kingdom.

The first chartered plane that took off from New Delhi late Wednesday night carried 419 pilgrims, the report said on Thursday.

Officials of the Indian Haj Mission said all the pilgrims were in good health and were given accommodation close to the Prophet's Mosque in the central area of Medina.

The pilgrims will stay in the Prophet's City for eight days and will move to Makkah on July 12.

Out of a total of 1,40,000 people performing the pilgrimage under the aegis of the Haj Committee of India, about 63,000 will arrive in Medina by July 21 and the remaining 77,000 will arrive in Jeddah between July 20 and August 5, the report added.

The Haj will take place tentatively from August 8 to August 14.

An office is functioning round-the-clock at Madinah airport to assist arriving Indian pilgrims.

Also, for the first time, the Haj Committee of India has put tags on the baggage of the pilgrims marking the building details along with the room number allotted to them, the report added.

Besides its main office and three branch offices, the Indian Haj Mission has also set up one 10-bedded dispensary and three branch dispensaries in localities where the pilgrims are staying.

Indian pilgrims landing in Jeddah will start moving to Medina from August 19 after performing the Haj.

They will then depart for their respective destinations in India from Prince Muhammad Airport in Medina after an eight-day stay in the Prophet's City.

The pilgrims arriving in Medina will leave for home from Jeddah starting August 16. The departure phase will continue until September 14, the report said.

In Jeddah, the first Haj flight from India will arrive on July 20 from Ahmedabad. However, pilgrims ferried by private tour operators started arriving in Jeddah on Thursday.

Last year, Saudi Arabia increased India's Haj quota by 5,000, while in 2017 it was increased by about 35,000 

The Haj subsidy provided by the government was removed last year in the light of a Supreme Court order of 2012.


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Bengaluru: The Congress on Saturday released a list of six candidates for the December 5 assembly bypolls in Karnataka.

The party has fielded Gajanan Balachandra Mangasuli from Athani, Bharamgouda Alagouda Kage from Kagwad and Lakhan Jarkiholi from Gokak.

It has also given nomination to Venkatrao Ghorpade from Vijayanagara, Rizwan Arshad from Shivajinagar and K B Chandrashekar from Krishnarajpet.

A party statement said Congress president Sonia Gandhi has approved the names of the candidates.

The Congress also named Praveen Peter as its candidate for the biennial election to the legislative council of Karnataka.

Bypolls will be held in 15 constituencies as the sitting Congress-JDS MLAs were disqualified by then Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar ahead of a trust vote, which led to the fall of the HD Kumaraswamy government and the return of the B S Yediyurappa-led BJP to power in July.

In total 17 MLAs were disqualified but bypolls will be held in 15 of those seats as by-elections to Maski and RR Nagar constituencies are withheld with separate cases regarding them pending before the high court.

Sixteen of the 17 disqualified Congress-JD(S) legislators have joined the BJP and 13 of them have been given nomination by the saffron party from their respective seats.

The BJP will need to win at least six of these 15 seats to remain in power. Of the 15 constituencies, 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S).

The last date for filing of nominations for the bypolls is November 18.