After a gap of two years due to the COVID pandemic, the Haj will begin this year, as usual, announced the Saudi government.
However, with COVID cases still being reported from across the world, the number of Haj pilgrims is less in comparison to 2 lakh pilgrims that went for the Hajj in 2019.
This year, India will send 79,237 pilgrims to perform the Hajj. The Haj Committee of India will send 56,601 pilgrims while 26,636 pilgrims will be managed by Haj Group Organisers (HGOs).
As per the data available with the Minority Affairs Ministry, the total number of applications received this year is 87,194. Out of which 44,121 are male applicants and 43,073 are female applicants. Kerala has sent the maximum applications with 11,449, followed by Maharashtra (10,125).
The third highest applications (9,993) have been received from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The quota which is been approved by the Saudi government will be done through a lottery system.
The Government of India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been the first government in the world that has allowed women to go on Haj without a male companion or Mehram. This year too, the Haj Committee has received 2,000 woman applicants for Haj without Mehram.
More than 3,000 women had applied for Haj in 2020 and 2021 without the “Mehram” category. However, because of COVID restrictions, they could not travel so this time their application will also be considered. All the women without the “Mehram” category will be exempted from the lottery system.
“We have met all the arrangements and all the officers who will be travelling have been trained well in the procedures. Here also, we are making sure that all COVID protocols are followed including the mandatory COVID negative RT-PCR certificate before 72 hours of arrival so that there is no inconvenience to anyone,” Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told ANI.
Total 11 Haj embarkation points, including Chennai, Lucknow, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kochi, are among those which have been identified for this year, he informed.
“We had received requests from many states to ask for increasing the number of points for Haj embarkation but this year, with the restrictions continuing with the COVID-19, we have not been able to add any more locations,” Naqvi added.
For the first time, women have been elected as vice-chairperson of the Haj Committee of India. Munnawari Begum, a member of the Central Waqf Council, and Mafuja Khatun who is the vice president of the Bengal BJP have now been elected to the Haj Committee.
Under the Modi government in 2018, India had removed the subsidy available for Haj and in turn, that money which was close to 400 crore each year has been used to fund education for the girl children.
Haj 2022 will begin on May 31. The first flight will be flagged off by the Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.