Our Correspondent / Mumbai
Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said that Haj pilgrims can now fly to Saudi Arabia from multiple embarkation points in the country.
The facility will come into effect from November the 15th. Mr. Naqvi said the facility will prove more economical for pilgrims as charges at the major embarkation points like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata are cheaper than the tier-II cities such as Aurangabad, Indore, and Srinagar among others.
The minister further said, people can submit their applications by physically filling in the form as well as through online registration including the payment facility for the same.
Minister said that this time, the Centre has announced the process a month in advance. This will provide enough opportunities for all the agencies concerned to make preparations so that world class facilities to the pilgrims are ensured. The process has started today and the people can apply for Haj from November 15.
The Minister also launched a new Haj Mobile App to make the application process easier. Applying for Haj, inquiry and information, news and updates and e-payment are main features of the app App. Application for pilgrimage can be made directly from it and registration fees can also be paid.
He said that the Centre has been working to make the entire process online so that people can get an opportunity for the pilgrimage with complete transparency and comfort.
Mr Naqvi said that Haj 2018 will be performed according to the new Haj Policy. The high-level committee, constituted to frame the new policy, has already submitted its report and Minority Affairs Ministry has been looking into its recommendations. The new policy aims to make Haj pilgrimage more comfortable, smooth and transparent.
He said that the new policy includes maintaining the reservation for people above 70 years and allowing women over 45 years in a group of four or more without a male relative or “Mahram”. The report on new Haj policy is under consideration of Minority Affairs Ministry and positive discussion is going on, on keeping the number of embarkation points as it is at 21 at present.
For the first time, for Haj 2018, details of total expenditure to be incurred by the pilgrims is given in the Haj application form. This is a step towards transparency. Haj application form for 2018 also contains the embarkation points-wise detailed air fare comparison which will be beneficial for the pilgrims as for the first time they will get option for embarkation points of their own choice.
A total of 1,24,940 Haj pilgrims performed Haj 2017 by 454 flights between July 24 to August 28 through Haj Committee of India. About 45,000 pilgrims went through private tour operators.