Sunday, 13 Aug, 2.58 am

New Haj policy to be unveiled this month

Haj policy-2018 will be unveiled this month, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (independent charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Saturday.

At a review meeting on Haj 2017 and the 22nd annual Haj orientation camp organised for pilgrims at the Haj House here, Naqvi said from next year, Haj will be organised according to the new policy only.

A high-level committee constituted for the purpose is in the final stage of shaping the policy.

Naqvi said the new policy is aimed at making the Haj process smoother and more transparent. Providing the best of facilities to Haj pilgrims is at the centre of this policy, he said.

Reviving the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route is an important part of the new policy. "The sea route will help cut down travel expenses by nearly half compared to airfares. 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 in 1995.

Naqvi said another advantage with modern ships is that they are well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 people at a time. They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah within two-three days. Earlier, ships used to take 12-15 days to cover this distance.

Naqvi said a high-level meeting will be held under the chairmanship of Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi on August 28. Senior officials from shipping and minority affairs ministries will attend the meeting.

He also said a discussion, on reviving the pilgrimage through sea route, with the Saudi Arabia government was on.

Naqvi said the Ministry of Minority Affairs, in cooperation with the Haj Committee of India and other agencies concerned, had completed preparations for Haj 2017 well before time.