No direct flight to Haj pilgrims from Mangaluru since three years

07:30PM Thu 9 May, 2024

Mangaluru, May 9: For the past three years, Haj pilgrims from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi have faced inconvenience due to the lack of direct flight facilities.

Every year, 1.75 lac pilgrims undertake the Haj pilgrimage from India, with Karnataka contributing 10,500 pilgrims annually. Following Bengaluru, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have the highest number of Haj pilgrims, totalling 1,123.

Initially, there were no direct flights from Mangaluru. However, after local Muslim leaders raised concerns in Delhi in 2009, direct flights were initiated with approval from then-foreign minister S M Krishna. These flights commenced operations from Mangaluru and Goa subsequently.

Despite the cancellation of the Haj pilgrimage in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, direct flight facilities were not reinstated in 2022. Accusations were made against the former BJP government for lack of interest, and it appears that the current Congress government has not taken any steps in this regard either.

U T Khader, the speaker of the Karnataka legislative assembly, stated, "Discussions will be held with the union government to restart direct flight facilities for Haj pilgrims from Mangaluru International Airport."

The cancellation of the Mangaluru Embarkation Point has led to difficulties for Haj pilgrims from Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu, and Hassan. The Indian Haj Committee has provided the option to embark from either Bengaluru or Calicut.

Although the first Haj flight is scheduled to depart on May 9, there is no clarity on subsequent flights. Kerala has three embarkation points, while Karnataka has only one. Many Haj pilgrims, predominantly senior citizens, face challenges as they and their families must travel to Bengaluru or Calicut for boarding, resulting in the loss of a day.

Jaleel Mukri, a Haj pilgrim, expressed, "Most pilgrims are senior citizens, some traveling with their parents and families. It is inconvenient to lose a day traveling to Bengaluru with luggage. Direct flight facilities need to be reinstated from next year."

In response, Ashraf Tangal, a member of the State Haj Committee, pledged, "We will endeavour to begin direct Haj flight facilities from Mangaluru International Airport next year. Within three years, a Haj Bhavan will be constructed near Bajpe, making it convenient for Haj pilgrims."