Indian Haj pilgrims in mute mode in Makkah owing to SIM card difficulties

Pilgrims were provided prepaid SIM cards issued by different Saudi telecom service providers through the Indian Haj committee

Jeddah: Several Indian Haj pilgrims are facing difficulties in communicating with their families back home owing to non-activation of their Saudi SIM cards.

A frightened and shaky 66-year-old Iqbal of Karimnagar in Telangana ran from pillar to post to convey his wife Shahin Sultana’s deteriorating health condition from a top hospital in the holy city of Makkah to his family back home in India. However, he had to go incommunicado with his relatives in Saudi and back home too for long hours until an acquaintance helped with his mobile on Wednesday.

His case exemplifies the trauma pilgrims undergo without a SIM card, like him numerous people facing difficulties not only to reach families and friends back but accompanying pilgrims or roommates in Makkah also.

MS Education Academy

The pilgrims were provided prepaid SIM cards issued by different Saudi telecom service providers through the Indian Haj committee. However, Indian Haj authorities in embarkation points have failed to explain the procedure of activation of these SIM cards to pilgrims when they reach Saudi Arabia.

According to CITC rules, any SIM card in Saudi Arabia can be activated following biometric verification against end user personal particulars. Also, users are required to top up their SIM cards to use it whether for voice call or data according to their requirement. Leading telecom service providers offer various packages starting from SR.35 to SR.173 with different bundles of talk time and from 5 GB to 40 GB data.

Many Indian pilgrims believed that since SIM cards were provided by the Haj committee, it would work free and instantly as soon as they enter the holy land as they are unaware of the mandatory biometric registration and recharging procedures. This is when hundreds of kiosks have been set up by telecom service providers near pilgrims’ buildings in Aziziah and other parts of Makkah to complete biometrics and to sell recharging cards.

It is interesting to note that India is one of largest pilgrim segments, yet it didn’t figure in the list of top calling countries as internet savvy Indians choose to communicate with their near and dear ones over various freely available net phone apps. They use SIM cards basically for data usage.

During last year’s Haj, all over pilgrims consumed 36,000 terra bytes via telecom networks in Makkah, the equivalent of streaming 14.83 million hours of 1080p HD video clips. The average daily consumption was 851.13 megabytes per user, more than three times the world’s average of around 200 megabytes per user according to statistics.

Back to top button