The Government of India has abolished subsidy for Haj pilgrims from this year, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced on Tuesday.
He also claimed that 1-75 lakh Muslims from India, highest number ever, will go on Haj this year. The decision to abolish Haj subsidy comes day after government allowed Muslim women, above the age of 45, to go on Haj without male guardian, in a group of at least four.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs had, last year, constituted a committee to review the existing Haj policy and suggest a framework for a new Haj policy for 2018-22.
The committee suggested that women above 45 years be allowed to perform Haj without a ‘Mehram’ (a male relative by blood) in a group of four or more.
Also, it recommended that coupons for ‘Adahi’ (sacrifice of animals) be made compulsory for all the pilgrims and the quota of Mehram be increased from the present 200 to 500, he said.
The committee also suggested that the number of embarkation points (EPs) be reduced from 21 to nine . It also recommended that suitable Haj houses be built at these EPs, Naqvi said.
For the tour operators, the committee suggested that the quota be distributed in a 70:30 ratio between the Haj Committee and private tour operators (PTOs).
The PTOs should collect the full package cost from the pilgrims only through their bank accounts and render the details to the ministry before the departure of the pilgrims.
The panel also recommended an amendment in the Haj Committee Act to extend ‘Umra’ and ‘Ziyarat’ to Syria, Iran Iraq and Jordan.