Friday 2 January 2009 (06 Muharram 1430)

      Drivers, porters demand tips from pilgrims
      K.S. Ramkumar | Arab News 
      JEDDAH: Indonesian Haj pilgrims have complained of harassment by drivers 
and porters for tips during their travel from Makkah to Madinah.

      "Pilgrims in my group have been asked to pay SR5 per head by drivers for 
their trip from Makkah to Madinah," K.H. Hasbullah Fadholi, leader of the 74th 
Haj flight group, said while leaving for Surabaya from the Haj Terminal of King 
Abdulaziz Airport. 

      Hasbullah, who is also chairman of the Al-Mabrur Pilgrimage Guidance 
Group of Pamekasan, East Java, said he once admonished drivers for asking for 
money from the 267 pilgrims under his supervision. 

      "I told them not to ask for additional money because they have already 
been paid for their services by the contracted agencies," said Hasbullah, who 
has performed Haj six times.

      He said he had paid each driver about SR50 for the trip from Makkah to 

      "Without the tips, the drivers would deliberately reduce their speed so 
the pilgrims would arrive in Madinah later than scheduled," he added. 

      But even after receiving a tip of SR50, the drivers still asked for more 
money individually from the pilgrims. 

      "Once I had to scare the drivers by telling them I could report their 
behavior to the local Haj transport agency, which is the channel for making 
payment of official charges for transport," Hasbullah added.

      On their arrival in Madinah, he said, porters also tried to squeeze SR10 
from each of the pilgrims to carry their baggage to rooms, and they even cut 
off the electricity of the hotel lifts to press for their demand. 

      The attitude of the local bus drivers and porters was unacceptable, 
Hasbullah said, adding that their demand for tips could be due to the practice 
of tipping by some rich Indonesian pilgrims over the years.

      "That's how the drivers and porters regard asking for extra money as 
something normal," Hasbullah said.

      Meanwhile, the Indonesian Cons-ulate reported the death of at least 325 
of their pilgrims as of Dec. 20.

      About 95 percent of them were above 60 years old, and 210 or roughly 65 
percent, died of heart problems. Most of them died in Makkah and others in 
Madinah and Jeddah.

      The number is slightly lower than last year's Haj season when 327 
pilgrims died, according to Barita Sitompul, deputy chairperson of the 
Indonesian Haj Pilgrimage Committee.

      Another 150 sick Indonesian pilgrims received medical treatment for 
various ailments. 

      Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, sent a 
total of 208,928 pilgrims this year, according to data from the country's 
Religious Affairs Ministry.

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