For the first time, Kolkata airport authorities have commissioned remote registered baggage X-ray and check-in facilities in New Town for pilgrims travelling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for Haj. Such facilities are available in several cities abroad like Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur, particularly in airport metro lines where check-in and luggage X-ray are done at the metro station in the city centre.
Till last year, a large shamiana was built in front of the old terminal where the Haj pilgrims would congregate before entering the airport. But this year, owing to a number of construction activities in the airport premises, the shamiana came up at New Town and half of the boarding process has been shifted there.
“Airports Authority of India has provided X-ray baggage inspection system (XBIS) and check-in facility at the Madinat-ul-Hajjaj, the Haj house in New Town so that Haj pilgrims can simply undergo security check at the airport and board the flight,” airport director Kaushik Bhattacharya told TOI. With Kolkata airport being the embarkation point for Haj pilgrims from seven states, the airport has to deal with a sharp rise in passenger movement during Haj. During a 10-day period between July 25 and August 5 this year, 11,831 pilgrims are scheduled to travel for Haj. Of them, 8,043 pilgrims are from Bengal and the rest from Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha. Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
“Once baggage X-ray and check-in are completed at the Haj centre in New Town, immigration and security check can be done in a coordinated manner at the airport. We are using the old domestic terminal exclusively for Haj pilgrims to ensure that they have a hassle-free experience. At the same time, it will prevent over-crowding of the integrated terminal,” an airport official said.
After being screened in New Town, the luggage is transported in a sealed container truck directly to the airport to prevent any security breach. The passengers are also transported in buses to the airport where they undergo security check and immigration before boarding the aircraft.
“The first Haj flight took off on Thursday. On Friday, there were two flights— one at 8am and the other at 12 noon. On Saturday, there will be three flights operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines,” said Rajya Sabha MP and Haj committee chairman Nadim-ul-Haq. The Saudi national carrier has deployed Boeing B747 and B777 to fly Haj pilgrims. The return flights that will start from September 1 are expected to continue till September 13.
The Haj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the most holy city of the Muslims and a mandatory religious duty to be carried out at least once by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey and can support their family during their absence. It is one of the five pillars of Islam alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm.
Source: Times of India