Government mulling sea route for Haj pilgrims, says minister

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Mumbai, April 14 (IANS) Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday said the government is mulling revival of sea route option for Haj pilgrimage and consultations with the Shipping Ministry are already on.

“A high-level committee, formed by the government to frame the Haj Policy 2018 as per the Supreme Court’s 2012 order, is exploring the issue for sending pilgrims via the sea route to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,” Naqvi said at a training programme at the Haj House here.

The committee will soon submit its report to the government.

Naqvi said travel by ship will cut down travel expenses by nearly half compared with air fares.

The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by sea was discontinued in 1995.

At present, Haj pilgrims travel by air from 21 points across the country.

The minister said another advantage was that ships nowadays are modern and well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at one go.

“They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles between Mumbai and Jeddah in just two-three days. Earlier, ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance,” he said.

He said the new Haj Policy is aimed at making the entire pilgrimage process easier and transparent. Facilities for pilgrims will be the focus of the new policy.

About one lakh pilgrims went to Jeddah for the Haj last year through the Haj Committee of India, besides around 36,000 persons who went through private tour operators.

In 2017, a total of 1,70,025 persons will go for the Haj from India, including 1,25,025 through the Haj Committee and 45,000 others through private operators.

More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the three-day training programme that involves officials from the Haj Committee of India, Saudi Arabia Consulate, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines, Air India, customs and immigration departments and doctors.

These trainers will now train the pilgrims at different camps across the country.

–IANS

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