Mumbai, Aug 12 (IANS) The new Haj Policy-2018, aiming to make the annual pilgrimage process more “smooth and transparent”, will be unveiled later this month, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced here on Saturday.
Addressing the 22nd Annual Haj Orientation Camp for Haj pilgrims at Haj House this evening, he said the new policy was being given finishing touches and from next year, the pilgrimage would be organised as per the upcoming policy in which pilgrims are the centre-point.
He reiterated that one of the important options in the new policy would be revival of the practice to send Haj pilgrims through the sea route, as announced a few months ago.
“Sending pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses by nearly half as compared to air fares. It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor and pilgrim-friendly decision,” Naqvi explained.
Ferrying Haj pilgrims by ships between Mumbai and Jeddah was stopped 22 years ago after which they were being sent by air from various embarkation points in India.
According to Naqvi, another advantage with modern ships is they are well equipped to carry around 4,000-5,000 persons at a time and cover the 4,260 km (around 2,300 nautical miles) one-way voyage between Mumbai-Jeddah in just two-three days, compared to the 12-15 days in the past with the old ships.
A high-level meeting chaired by Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari will be held in New Delhi on August 28 for the purpose and discussions are underway with the Saudi Arabian government on reviving the sea route for Haj pilgrimage.
The current Haj 2017 season — for which Saudi Arabia has increased the Indian quota by 34,005 — kicked off from 21 embarkation points in India from July 24 smoothly.
This year, of the total Indian quota of 170,025, 125,025 would go for the pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India and the remaining 45,000 through private tour operators, he said.
To date, around 65,000 Haj pilgrims had already left for Saudi Arabia from Srinagar, New Delhi, Gaya, Varanasi, Lucknow, Goa, Guwahati, Kolkata and Mangalore, Naqvi said.
The next phase ending on August 26 will see pilgrims taking flights from Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Chennai and Ahmedabad.