Last batch of Indian Umrah pilgrims flown back

The last batch of Umrah pilgrims from India left King Abdulaziz International Airport here on Wednesday afternoon. A total of 185 pilgrims returned to Mumbai on board a special Indigo aircraft at 2.35 p.m., Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh said. With their departure, the final phase of evacuation of 3,035 Indian pilgrims has been completed successfully.

The last arrival of Umrah pilgrims for the current season was on Feb. 27, the day when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to temporarily suspend Umrah pilgrimage from foreign countries as well as visit to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. In later phases, Umrah pilgrimage from the Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as from within the Kingdom was also suspended.

The last batch of Indian pilgrims was scheduled to return home on March 28. However, the Saudi government’s decision to suspend all international flights effective from March 15 forced all the diplomatic missions and aviation companies to coordinate their efforts to send back their pilgrims before the expiry of the deadline. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) allowed a grace period to send back some of the pilgrims who were stranded due to the disruption of flight services after the end of the deadline for departure. India and some other countries arranged special flights to send back their pilgrims.

Indian Consul General Sheikh thanked the governments of Saudi Arabia and India as well as aviation companies for their full support for the safe return of the pilgrims. The consulate had set up a round-the-clock helpline for extending assistance for the return of the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced on Wednesday that all forthcoming board exams for classes 10 and 12 have been postponed until March 31, both in India and abroad, in view of the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the exams were scheduled to be held between March 19 and 31. Ongoing evaluation of board exam papers has also been postponed. CBSE said in a statement that it will reassess the situation and communicate fresh dates for exams by March 31.