Pilgrims from India disembarking at Jedda, 1940, Royal Geographical Society/Gerald de Gaury
Our Correspondent / Mumbai
If things go according to government’s plan, Indian Muslims could soon opt for sea route for Hajj pilgrimage. The sea journey would cut down travel expenses by nearly half as compared to airfares. The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways was stopped in 1995.
Union Minister for Minority and Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said that his ministry was in an ‘active consideration’, in consultation with Shipping Ministry to revive sending Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the coming days.
Naqvi was speaking at a training programme for Haj trainers at Haj House in Mumbai. He also said that a high-level committee formed to frame the Haj Policy 2018 according to Supreme Court’s 2012 order, was also exploring the way to revive the via sea route option for pilgrims.
“Sea route option will cut down travel expenses by nearly half as compared to airfares. It will be a revolutionary, pilgrim-friendly decision”, Naqvi said adding that modern ship were well-equipped with latest facilities to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at a time.
“They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah within just two-three days. Earlier, the old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance” he informed.
At present, devotees undertake the journey by air from 21 embarkation points across the country.
Naqvi said that the Minority Affairs Ministry, in coordination with other concerned agencies, had started preparations for Haj pilgrimage very early. The Ministry’s aim is to provide world class facilities to Haj pilgrims. The Minister said that the measure to make Haj process online has produced good results. A total of 1,29,196 Haj applications were done online.
Naqvi said that the increase in India’s annual Haj quota by Saudi Arabia Government has benefitted about all the states as quota of the states for Haj 2017 has also been increased significantly.
Saudi Arabia has increased annual Haj quota of India by 34,005. The decision in this regard had been taken during signing of bilateral annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia at Jeddah on 11th January 2017. It is the biggest increase in the quota of Haj pilgrims from India after several years.
About 99,903 people went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for Haj from 21 embarkation points across India through Haj Committee of India during Haj 2016. Apart from this, about 36,000 Haj pilgrims had preceded for Haj through the private tour operators.
For Haj 2017, a total of 1,70,025 people will go to Haj pilgrimage from India out of which 1,25,025 pilgrims will go through Haj Committee of India while 45,000 people will go through Private Tour Operators.
In the three-day training programme, officials from Haj Committee of India; Royal Consulate of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines; Air India; Customs; Immigration and doctors are informing about “Do’s and Don’ts” during Haj.
More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the programme. The trainers will now train the pilgrims in training camps.
Edited by Andalib Akhter for Indian Awaaz