The quota for Haj pilgrims routed through the Haj Committee has been increased after four years, to 1.25 lakh pilgrims. Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra will benefit the most from this, with over 54 per cent of the increased 25,000 seats allotted to them. Under a bilateral agreement between India and Saudi Arabia, the Haj quota has been increased from 1.36 lakh pilgrims last year to 1.70 lakh pilgrims for 2017. Under the new arrangement, 1.25 lakh pilgrims will go through the Haj Committee, while 45,000 seats have been earmarked for private operators.
The increased quota will benefit Uttar Pradesh the most, which will now be able to send an additional 7,189 people on Haj, taking the total number of pilgrims from the state to 29,017. Gujarat’s share has been increased by 3,833 seats to a total of 10,877 seats, while that of Maharashtra has been increased by 2,423 seats to 9,780 pilgrims.
The Haj quota seats are distributed among states in proportion to their Muslim population as per the 2011 Census. If the number of Haj applicants is less than the quota allotted to the state, the seats are surrendered and redistributed among states with applicants in excess of their allocated quota.
From 2013, the Saudi government has reduced the overall Haj quota for pilgrims from foreign countries, including from India, by 20%, to facilitate the infrastructure work being carried out around in the vicinity of the holy places.
India had been requesting the Saudi Arabia government to increase its annual quota, but it had stayed unchanged since 2013.
The Centre does not extend a direct subsidy to individual pilgrims for Haj. However, it provides a certain subsidy to airlines ferrying Haj pilgrims, which is the difference between the airfare fixed through tender and the uniform fare paid by the pilgrims to the Haj Committee of India.
During the year 2015, an amount of Rs 529.51 crore was given as subsidy for Haj pilgrims going through the Haj Committee of India. During the year 2016, the budget provision for this was Rs 450 crore.
The Supreme Court in 2012 had directed the Centre to progressively reduce the amount of Haj subsidy so as to eliminate it within a period of 10 years.