India, Saudi Arabia ink Haj agreement 2020

India emerged as first in the world to fully digitalize the Haj process, to make the 2020 pilgrimage a smooth and seamless operation.

Online services, including a Haj mobile app, online application, E-Visa, ‘E-MASIHA’ health facility, ‘E-luggage pre-tagging’, and information regarding accommodation and transportation in Makkah-Madinah, have been provided to Indian Muslims going for Haj pilgrimage in 2020.

The new online facilities were revealed by the Indian Minister of Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, in Jeddah, while signing a bilateral annual Haj 2020 agreement between India and Saudi Arabia, with the Haj and Umrah Minister of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten.

Minister Naqvi said that for the first time facilities have been provided to ensure that Indian pilgrims will get information, while they are still in India, about their accommodation including building and room number allocated to them, as well as the buses to be taken upon arriving at the airport in Saudi Arabia.

He said that the SIM card of the pilgrim can be linked to a new mobile app that provides all relevant information regarding Haj to pilgrims while they are in Makkah-Madina. In addition, a new call-center has been set up at Haj House, Mumbai to provide information regarding the entire Haj process.

The minister added that an online health card called ‘E-MASIHA’ (E-Medical Assistance System for Indian Pilgrims Abroad), is also being provided to Indian Haj pilgrims in the country. The online system creates and maintains the complete health database of Indian pilgrims, including prescriptions, medical treatments, and medications. The system will help to deal with any medical emergency that the pilgrim might incur in Makkah-Madinah.

Minister Naqvi said that Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) have also been connected with a fully digital system, which has ensured transparency in their functioning and eliminated middle-men, to ensure better and more convenient facilities for Indian Haj pilgrims.

Since the last four years the ministry has taken concerted efforts to make Haj and other programs completely digital and online as a part of the Digital India initiative, said the minister.

Stating that the Indian government, in coordination and cooperation with the Saudi government, Indian Consulate, and various related agencies in Saudi Arabia, is working to ensure safety and better facilities to Indian pilgrims, Mr. Naqvi pointed out that a total of 200,000 Indian Muslims will perform Haj in 2020 without any subsidy. He also revealed that around 15,000 online Haj applications were received till 30 November from Jammu and Kashmir alone.

The last date of submission of online Haj application is 5 December 2019.

Minister Naqvi thanked the Saudi Arabian government for playing an active and effective role to ensure safety and better facilities to Indian Haj pilgrims, and said it was a reflection of the strengthened bilateral relations between the two countries.

He added that India-Saudi Arabia relations have achieved newer heights under the leadership and guidance of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Both the countries share strong cultural, historical, economic and political relations, said the minister. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to India and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019 and earlier has further strengthened relations between the two countries.

S.A.H. Rizvi