The Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) & Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said that there is an “active consideration”, in consultation with Shipping Ministry, on reviving the option of sending Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the coming days. It was stated by Naqvi while addressing a training of trainers programme at Haj House in Mumbai, on 14th April, 2017. Naqvi said that a high-level committee, formed by the government to frame the Haj Policy 2018 according to Supreme Court’s 2012 order, is exploring to revive the option of sending pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah.
Naqvi said that dispatching Haj pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses by nearly half as compared to airfares. It will be a revolutionary, pilgrim-friendly decision. The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways was stopped from 1995. At present, devotees undertake the journey by air from 21 embarkation points across the country.
Naqvi said that another advantage with ships available these days is they are modern and well-equipped 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. The high-level committee will soon submit its report.
The Minister said that the new Haj Policy is aimed at making entire Haj process easier and transparent. The facilities for the Haj pilgrims will be in focus of the new Haj policy.
He 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 proceeded 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. It include information about transport, accommodation in Saudi Arabia and laws of Saudi Arabia. More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the programme. The trainers will now train the pilgrims in training camps.