Jeddah: Over 2,000 Indian volunteers this year provided selfless service to Haj pilgrims, forming the largest expatriate group that lent great support in organising a successful and incident-free pilgrimage.
"During Core Haj period more than 2,000 volunteers were involved. We believe the Indian volunteer group was the largest," Indian Consul General B S Mubarak told PTI.
"They lent great support towards the organisation of a successful and incident-free pilgrimage," he said.
The Indian volunteers this year belonged to forums such as the Indian Pilgrim Welfare Forum (IPWF), the Jeddah Haj Welfare Forum, India Fraternity Forum, Risala Study Circle and Haj Cells of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Center among others.
"More than ten groups were involved in serving pilgrims. All organisations worked under the umbrella of the Indian Consulate. We do not want to single out any one. All of them contributed their best," Mubarak said.
"They were a great support, especially in Mina and also to organise and support Friday Transport for pilgrims from Azizia to Haram (Grand Mosque, within which the Kaaba is situated). They mainly served Indian pilgrims," he said.
Wearing T-shirts and fluorescent-coloured jackets, these volunteers from different Indian social, cultural and religious forums were seen in action at the holy sites of Mina and Arafat during the first four days of Haj.
IPWF President Kader Khan said the organisation printed guides for pilgrims in nine languages and distributed ihram dress for female pilgrims along with prayer beads.
About 25 members of IPWF traveled daily from Jeddah to Mecca to conduct orientation programmes for the pilgrims, Khan said at an event organised here last week to discuss ways to coordinate the work of Indian voluntary groups.
At the event, Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Mohammad Noor Rahman Sheikh thanked the Saudi government, voluntary organisations and other agencies for their support.
Haj services were provided not only by many Indian voluntary orgnaisations but individuals as well.
Bahjat Najmi, an Indian expatriate here, continued to serve pilgrims, distributing prayer mats and beads, which he has been doing for many years.
"The primary objective is to facilitate a hassle-free pilgrimage and for that both at an individual level and through my organisation Haji Ayoob Seoharvi Academy, I try to do as much as possible," he said.
Many Indian volunteers narrated touching stories of how they served pilgrims from giving them a bath to carrying the old ones to their camps.
A total of 2,085,238 pilgrims, including 1,389,053 foreigners, performed this year's Haj which was by and large hassle-free and very much comfortable. A total of 136,020 Indians performed Haj this year.