Lucknow: The first batch of 349 pilgrims from Uttar Pradesh on Sunday left for the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia from the Chaudhary Charan Singh international airport, here.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who flagged off the batch, congratulated the pilgrims and wished them safe and memorable journey.
Stating that his government was making best efforts to provide various amenities to the pilgrims at the Ali Miyan Haj house, he said endeavours were also being made to increase the quota of Haj pilgrims from the state.
Addressing the first batch of pilgrims, the CM said that despite several hurdles, his government has been successful in getting quota increased this year.
"Maximum elderly person of every religion wish that they get a chance to visit their holy religious place. You all are blessed that your wish is being fulfilled. My congratulations to all pilgrims," he said.
Speaking on the occasion state Haj and Minority Minister Mohd Azam Khan condemned the "divisive and communal forces" and urged people not to get provoked by such elements and to strengthen unity and strong relationship with love.
UP Haj Committee secretary Zubair Ahmad said that two flights left from Chaudhary Charan Singh airport on the first day. He said that flight from Varanasi would start from August 18.
He said that this year UP has a quota of 24,700 pilgrims as against 23,000 last year.
This year 10,700 pilgrims from Lucknow, 4,200 from Varanasi and rest 9,800 from Delhi would leave for the pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the Secretary said.
He said that the sequence of taking pilgrims from these three places would continue till September 1.