Haj travellers can now fly to Saudi Arabia from multiple embarkation points in the country, which will make their travel “economical”, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced here today. The facility will come into effect from November 15. “There are 21 major embarkation points in the country, but Haj travellers have been using other cities as well to fly to Saudi Arabia. We are now offering them multiple embarkation facility, where people can choose the city to board the flight to Saudi Arabia,” Naqvi told reporters at the Haj House. He said the facility will prove more economical for pilgrims as charges at the major embarkation points like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata are cheaper than the tier-II cities such as Aurangabad, Indore, and Srinagar among others. “It is going to be an optional service, but the pilgrims can still opt for tier-II embarkation point. The idea is to offer an economical option. For instance, a Haj pilgrim paid Rs 1,10,000 for embarkation point in Srinagar in 2016 whereas charges for the same were Rs 73,000 from New Delhi. Last year, the flexibility in selecting embarkation point was not available, from this year, we have provided it,” said the minister.
Naqvi said the process for the Haj pilgrimage has begun. “People can submit their applications through physically filling in the form as well as through online registration including the payment facility for the same. The government has begun the process a month in advance unlike last year, so that pilgrims can get more time for preparations,” Naqvi said. He said Haj 2018 will be performed according to the new Haj Policy.
“A high-level committee, constituted to frame the new policy, has already submitted its report and the Minority Affairs Ministry has been looking into its recommendations. The new Haj policy aims to make Haj pilgrimage more comfortable, smooth and transparent. Pilgrims’ safety and their facilities are our priority,” the minister said. He said the new Haj policy includes maintaining reservation for people above 70 years of age, who wish to go for Haj, and allowing women over 45 years of age in a group of four or more for Haj without a male relative or “Mahram”.
“We would allow a group of women to travel alone to Jeddah,” he said. “For the first time, for Haj 2018, details of total expenditure to be incurred by pilgrims are given in the application form. This is a step towards transparency. Haj application form for 2018 also contains the embarkation points-wise detailed air fare comparison which will be beneficial for the pilgrims as for the first time they will get option for embarkation points of their own choice,” Naqvi said.