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Saudi Arabia gives nod to India’s plan to ferry Haj pilgrims via sea route

New Delhi, January 8, 2018: Saudi Arabia has given the green signal for India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route, informed Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Monday.

Officials from both the countries will discuss on all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through sea route can be started in the coming years.

A decision in this regard was taken on Sunday, during the signing of bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement between India and Saudi Arabia by Naqvi and Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr Mohammad Saleh bin TaherBenten at Makkah.

Naqvi said that sending pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses significantly.

“It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision,” said Naqvi.

The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways was stopped from 1995.

The Minister 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 three-four days. Earlier, the old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance.

He said that this time Haj 2018 has been made 100 per cent digital/online. India’s transparent and 
digital Haj process has been lauded by Saudi Arabia Government.

Naqvi said that for the first time Muslim women from India will go to Haj without “Mehram” (male companion). Separate accommodation and transport has been arranged for these women Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and women “Haj Assistant” will be deployed for their assistance.

He pointed out that more than 1,300 women have applied to go for Haj without male “Mehram” and all of these women will be exempted from lottery system and allowed to proceed to Haj. Women above 45 years of age, who wish to go for Haj but who don’t have a male companion, are allowed to travel for Haj in groups of four or more women according to the new Haj policy of India.

The Minister informed that about 3.59 lakh applications have been received for Haj 2018. 

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