New Delhi: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Monday said that Saudi Arabia has given the green signal for India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route.
Currently, about 170,000 Hajj pilgrims from India go to Makkah to perform Haj by air.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also said 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 yesterday, during the signing of bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement between India and Saudi Arabia by Naqvi and Haj and Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten 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”, Naqvi said.
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 3-4 days. Earlier, the old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance.
Naqvi said that last year he had discussed the option to revive sea route for Haj pilgrimage with Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.
“Now, after the green signal from the Saudi Arabia, officials from India and Saudi Arabia will discuss all the issues related to Haj pilgrimage through sea route”, Naqvi said.
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 1300 women have applied to go for Haj without male “Mehram” and all of these women will be exempted from Hajj Qurrah i.e. Haj Draw and allowed to proceed to Haj.
Naqvi also said that India and Saudi Arabia share the ideals of global peace, progress and prosperity.
“We are tied together with strong civilizational, cultural, economic and political links. The regular visits by the leaders and senior-level officials of the two nations have further strengthened the relationship between the two nations”, the Minister stated.
“The visit of the Prime Minister NarendraModi to Saudi Arabia during April 2016 has added new dimensions to our vibrant relationship”, he added.
Naqvi said that Haj pilgrimage is one of the strongest pillars of India-Saudi Arabia ties.
The Minister emphasised that about 359,000 application have been received for Haj 2018.
“For the first time, we have given option to Haj pilgrims to opt for another embarkation point. This will ensure that there is no financial burden on Haj pilgrims even after removal of Haj subsidy. This decision has received overwhelming response”, he said.