Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi this morning flagged off the first batch of 300 Haj pilgrims from the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also was present on the occasion, an official statement said. Haj pilgrims will also head towards Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Monday from other cities like Guwahati, Lucknow, Mangalore, Varanasi, Srinagar and Kolkata. Addressing the pilgrims, Naqvi, the Union minister of state for minority affairs, reiterated that the Centre would soon finalise the new Haj policy which will be effective next year onwards.
“A high-level committee constituted in this regard will soon submit its report. The new Haj policy is aimed at making Haj process transparent and smooth,” he said.
The minister said the government was mulling revival of the option of taking pilgrims via sea route from Mumbai to Jeddah, contending this mode would help cut down travel expenses “by nearly half”.
4,000 to 5,000 devotees could be ferried at a time, he added.
The practice of ferrying pilgrims from Mumbai to Jeddah by sea route was stopped in 1995.
India has a Haj quota of 1.70 lakh. Out of this, 1.25 lakh pilgrims travel through Haj Committee of India, while the rest through private tour operators from 21 embarkation points.
From Delhi, 1,628 people will head towards Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage this year, the statement said.
Apart from Delhi, there are 20 more embarkation points including Mumbai, Goa, Bhopal, Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad (in Maharashtra), Chennai and Hyderabad.