MUMBAI: The annual Haj has become more comfortable and convenient for Indian Muslims due to various important reforms in the entire pilgrimage process undertaken by the Modi government over the last seven years, Union minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Thursday.
He said effective and far-sighted reforms by the government such as abolition of Haj subsidy, lifting restriction on women going for the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia without “mehram” (male companion) and 100 per cent digital/online registration process have ensured “Ease of Doing Haj” for Indian Muslims. He was speaking after a meeting with senior officials of the Haj Committee of India regarding preparations for the 2022 pilgrimage at Haj House here.
Naqvi said facilities such as Haj Committee of India portal, website for group organisers containing their details and packages, digital health card, “E-MASIHA” (E-Medical Assistance System for Indian Pilgrims Abroad) facility, e-luggage pre-tagging providing information regarding accommodation/transportation in Makkah-Madinah and an app related to the sacred journey have ensured transparent, affordable and comfortable Haj for Indian pilgrims. The minister said the entire Haj 2022 process will be 100 per cent digital/online.
India sends the second largest number of Haj pilgrims after Indonesia. Naqvi said the selection process of pilgrims will be done taking into account full vaccination, other guidelines and criteria to be decided by Indian and Saudi Arabia governments keeping in view coronavirus protocols during the time of Haj in 2022. The application process for pilgrims has commenced from November 1 and the last date of applying for Haj is January 31, 2022, he said. People are applying online and also through “Haj Mobile' app, the minister said. This app has been upgraded with the tagline “Haj App in Your Hand”.
The app contains several new features which include frequently asked questions, information to fill up the application form and videos giving information to applicants in a very simple manner, he said. More than 20,000 people have applied so far for the next year's Haj, which include 90 women who have applied outside the “mehram” category, he said. More than 3,000 women had applied for Haj 2020 and 2021 without “mehram”. Their applications will be eligible for Haj 2022 also, the minister said.
Other women can also apply for Haj under without “mehram” category. All women under this category will be exempted from the lottery system, he said. Naqvi said there will be 10 embarkation points for Haj 2022, instead of 21 earlier, covering different parts of the country. These are - Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Srinagar.
The Ahmedabad embarkation point will cover Gujarat, that in Bengaluru will cover Karnataka and Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh and the Cochin point will cover Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar. The Delhi embarkation point will cover Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and western districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The Guwahati embarkation point will cover Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nagaland and the one at Hyderabad will cover Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The Kolkata embarkation point will cover West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura, Jharkhand and Bihar.
The Lucknow embarkation point will cover all of Uttar Pradesh except western parts, Mumbai will cater to pilgrims from Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and the Srinagar point will cover Jammu Kashmir, Leh-Ladakh-Kargil, he informed.