Saudi Arabia has increased the Hajj quota for India to 1.70 lakh for the coming Hajj.
New Delhi: The Centre is expected to come out with a new Haj yatra policy this week to ensure a smooth pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
A key feature of the new policy, expected to be implemented from the next year, will be to revive the option of sending pilgrims via the sea route to Jeddah. The practice of sending pilgrims via sea route was stopped in 1995.
The option of ferrying the faithfuls from the coastal city of Mumbai to Jeddah has been considered as the Supreme Court in a 2012 order asked the Centre to abolish by 2022 the airways subsidy offered to Haj pilgrims.
The sea route is also expected to cut down the expenditure of pilgrims. The practice of ferrying the pilgrims by waterways was discontinued in 1995 on account of MV Akbari, the ship which used to transport them, growing old. The distance between Mumbai and Jeddah sea route if of 2,300 nautical miles and the ship used to take about a week. A source said, a modern ship can ferry 4,000 to 5,000 passengers at a time and cover the 2300-odd nautical miles distance between the two cities in two-three days. Currently, the Hajj pilgrims go to Saudi Arabia by air at different embarking points across the country.
The pilgrims are divided between the Hajj Committee of India and private Hajj operators. Before the sea route was closed, it used to take nearly a week for the pilgrims to reach Jeddah from the Yellow Gate in Mumbai’s Mazgaon, a source said.
Another feature of the policy is to limit the pilgrimage to once-in-a-lifetime affair, they said, adding the government will come out with the policy this week.
On the plan of restricting the pilgrimage to once in a lifetime, another source added it is to ensure that all desirous people get a fair chance to undertake the journey. “The experience so far has been that the rich people would travel more than once to Saudi Arabia. Since, we have a fixed Hajj quota, this meant, others would be left out. Capping the journey to once in a lifetime will ensure fair chance for all,” the source said.
Saudi Arabia has increased the Hajj quota for India to 1.70 lakh for the coming Hajj. While a total of 1.35 lakh Indian pilgrims undertook the pilgrimage last year