The number of Haj pilgrims has increased because of enhanced quota despite a government decision to remove subsidies — of a total 3,55,604 applications, 1,75,025 pilgrims will go to Haj this year.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has succeeded in increasing the Haj quota for the second consecutive year. As a result, the number of pilgrims has reached the highest since India’s Independence,” said Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Sunday. He stressed that the decision to do away with subsidy has not affected the Haj pilgrims.
Naqvi was addressing a training camp organised for Haj Khadim-Ul-Hujjaj at Haj House in Mumbai. “Of the 3,55,604 applications received for Haj, 1,89,217 are men and 1,66,387 women,” he said. According to Naqvi, 1,28,002 pilgrims, which include about 47 per cent women, will go through the Haj Committee of India, while 47,023 pilgrims will go through private tour operators. Besides, for the first time Muslim women from India will go to Haj without “Mehram” (male companion). In all, 1,308 women have applied to go for Haj without “Mehram” and all of these women have been exempted from the lottery system and allowed to proceed to Haj.
In all, 6,700 pilgrims will go from Ahmedabad, 350 from Aurangabad, 5,550 from Bengaluru, 254 from Bhopal, 11,700 from Cochin, 4,000 from Chennai, 19,000 from Delhi, 5,140 from Gaya, 450 from Goa, 2,950 from Guwahati, 7,600 from Hyderabad, 5,500 from Jaipur, 11,610 from Kolkata, 14,500 from Lucknow, 430 from Mangalore, 14,200 from Mumbai, 2,800 from Nagpur, 2,100 from Ranchi, 8,950 from Srinagar and 3,250 from Varanasi.
The Centre’s directive to airlines not to unreasonably hike fares has helped keep the air fare in check. “In 2017, Rs 1,030 crore was paid to airlines for air fare for 1,24,852 Haj pilgrims. Whereas, in 2018, Rs 973 crore will be paid to airlines for 1,28,002 Haj pilgrims. It means, Rs 57 crore less will be paid to airlines this year even after ending the Haj subsidy,” he said.
Naqvi said training camps and online/digital process have helped to make the Haj process transparent and help pilgrims. While indicating that Saudi Arabia has given the green signal to India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route, he said, “Officials from both countries are in discussion on all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through sea route can be started in the coming years.”
The Haj pilgrims were for the first time given the choice of embarkation points, which recieved an overwhelming response.
In the training camp, 623 “Khadim-ul-Hujjaj” from all the states participated. Officials from the Haj Committee of India, BMC, disaster management agencies and doctors informed them in detail all the process related to Haj, including accommodation, transport, health and safety of pilgrims. For the first time, women assistants will be deployed to monitor various facilities for women pilgrims.
Consul General of India at Jeddah, Mohammad Nur Rehman Sheikh, Haj Committee of India Chairman Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser, members of Haj Committee of India and other officials were present on the occasion.