Haj sea route plan on fast track

Saudi Arabia and India to discuss proposal for 2019

The Centre has fast-tracked the proposal to take Haj pilgrims by the sea route from next year, with Indian and Saudi Arabian officials holding discussions on the modalities, a senior official of the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has said.

The Saudi government has given the green signal to revive the scheme to ferry Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah, which was stopped in 1995. Formalities would be discussed between the two countries on the revival proposal, the official added.

Cutting expenses

However, the proposal, which is expected to cut the travel expenses by more than 50%, has not been received well by the Kerala State Haj Committee, since pilgrims would have to travel to Mumbai.

The full travel could possibly take two to three days unlike in earlier times when going by the sea route used to take more than a fortnight.

A final decision will be taken during the signing of the bilateral annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia shortly.

The finalisation of air agreements between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and airline companies would also be done in January.

The Calicut airport has already been restored as an embarkation point. Steps would be taken against airlines jacking up fares during the Haj season, government sources said.

The Haj Committee of India has also drawn up an action plan for the pilgrimage beginning July 2019.

The plan involves the State Haj committees working to provide better services to pilgrims. The last date for submission of Haj application forms by the intending pilgrims has been extended to December 19.

Facilities for women

From this year, the Haj formalities have been totally digitised and this would be continued next year too. About 1,300 women from India went to Haj without “mehram” (male companion). Separate accommodation and transport arrangements were made for these women pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. Besides, about 100 female assistants were deputed in Saudi Arabia to assist women Haj pilgrims. The Saudi government has also increased India’s Haj quota, touching a record number of 1,75,000.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 9:31:27 PM |

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