First batch of Indian Hajis leave for pilgrimage

Chanting “Allah Humma Labbaik” (Oh Allah here I come to thee) a group of 419 pilgrims, including 202 women, boarded the first flight for Saudi Arabia to perform Haj this year at a special function held in New Delhi last week.

Haj this year is special for India as the number of Hajis travelling to Saudi Arabia is the highest since independence with 200,000 pilgrims and its contingent is second biggest after Indonesia.  Also, for the first time about 48 per cent of the total 2,00,000 pilgrims are women pilgrims.

The first Haj flight was flagged off by Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in the presence of Delhi Minister for Transport Krishna Gehlot , Minister for Food Shri Imran Hussain, MP Shri Sanjay Singh, Haj Committee of India Acting Chairman Sheikh Jinah Nabi, Haj Committee of India Member Shri Hasan Baqar Kazmi

In the first flight. Haj pilgrims who boarded the flight hailed from Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh, Agra, Meerut, Rampur and Bulandshahar.

Minister Naqvi said first time since Independence, a record number of 200,000 Indian Muslims are going to Haj peform this year without any government subsidy. “Even after removal of Haj subsidy; there is no unnecessary financial burden on the Haj pilgrims.”

India will be operating over more than 500 special flights from 21 embarkation points across the country.  The flights will take off from Delhi, Gaya, Guwahati and Srinagar. Besides Delhi, Haj pilgrims from UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand, J&K, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh will proceed from Delhi embarkation point.

Also seen as a matter of great achievement the number of women Haj pilgrims going without “Mehram” (male companion) this year has doubled in comparison to last year.  A total of 2,340 Muslim women from India are going for Haj without ‘Mehram’ this year while 1180 women had performed Haj last year without ‘Mehram’.  This year too, the Minority Affairs Ministry has made arrangement to send these women on Haj without lottery system.

In India, the Haj operations is conducted by the Haj Committee of India which has its headquarters in Mumbai with Ministry of Minority Affairs as the regulatory body.  All operations of Haj from application to allotment and payment has been digitalized and the selection is done through lottery system in view of the huge demand.

Minister Naqvi said that every effort from seeking accommodation in Saudi Arabia to travel schedule is carefully planned so as to minimize any financial burden on the Hajis. There is also a plan to open sea link for Hajis which according to Haj committee officials is being worked out.

S A H RIZVI