New Delhi: A total number of 136,020 pilgrims are expected to take part in the Haj pilgrimage this year, of whom 100,020 will be participating through the Haj Committee of India and the remaining 36,000 through private tour operators, an official statement said.
The ministry of external affairs and Haj Committee organises the Haj pilgrimage, which began on August 16 this year and is proceeding smoothly, said an external affairs ministry statement.
About deaths of Haj pilgrims from India, the statement said this year there have been 21 deaths so far - 20 due to natural causes and one in a road accident. Of the natural deaths, 19 were due to cardiac arrest and one due to COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) with respiratory failure. Details of the pilgrims who died, their personal particulars and the causes of death were provided.
It said that more than 40 percent of the pilgrims are above 60 years and of these, 13.5 percent above 70 years, it said.
The statement clarified that deaths due to natural causes are a normal occurrence during Haj pilgrimage.
In Haj pilgrimages in 2009-2012, there were 250-300 deaths annually due to natural causes. The numbers have declined to 177 deaths in Haj 2013 and 152 deaths in Haj 2014, due to better treatment for pilgrims in the high risk group and also a 20 percent reduction in overall quota for India.
The fact that a very large number of pilgrims are above 60 and 70 years of age and are already facing several medical problems is the main reason for these deaths, it said, reiterating the ministry remains committed to the welfare and well-being of Haj pilgrims and is doing its utmost to ensure it.
The statement said that the ministry and the Indian consulate general in Jeddah have taken several steps to provide good medical facilities free of cost for Haj pilgrims, including a 40-bed hospital in Makkah, 40-bed hospital in Azizia and a 10-bed hospital in Madinah.
There are also 13 branch dispensaries in Makkah and five branch dispensaries in Madinah which are all located close to the pilgrims` accommodation and open round-the-clock.
The ministry has also dispatched medicines and medical equipment worth Rs.2 crore for use in these hospitals and dispensaries, which is provided free of cost to Haj pilgrims. A total of 134 doctors and 145 paramedics have been deployed to provide specialised medical care at these centres. Steps are also taken to facilitate treatment in case of emergencies and to arrange evacuation to India, if necessary, the statement said.