Union Minister for Minority Affairs Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said that eliminating middlemen has ensured that Haj pilgrimage has not become expensive even after removal of Haj subsidy. While inaugurating a two-day training related to Haj 2019 here, Shri Naqvi recalled that Haj subsidy had been removed last year, and that transparency ensured that there was no additional unnecessary financial burden on Haj pilgrims and for the first time after Independence, a record number of 1,75,025 Muslims from India performed Haj 2018. These include about 48 per cent women, said the Minister.
The Minister said that airfare for Haj pilgrimage decreased significantly in 2018 even after removal of Haj subsidy and that pilgrims were able to save a total of about Rs. 57 crore in airfares. He said that GST on Haj pilgrimage has been reduced from 18 per cent to 5 per cent; this will ensure that about Rs. 113 crore will be saved by Haj pilgrims during Haj 2019. Reduction in GST on Haj pilgrimage will ensure significant decrease in air fare at various embarkation points, said the Minister. Air fare from Srinagar will be reduced by Rs. 11,377.07, from Ahmedabad by Rs. 7,305.95, from Aurangabad by Rs. 9,373.68, from Delhi by Rs. 7,967.62, from Gaya by Rs. 11,027.85, from Guwahati by Rs. 13,049.63; from Ranchi by Rs. 11,946.84, from Kolkata by Rs. 9,787.22, and from Hydebarad by Rs. 7204.87 this year.
Shri Naqvi said that Ministry of Minority Affairs, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia Haj Consulate, Haj Committee of India and other concerned agencies, has started Haj 2019 preparations three months ahead of schedule, so as to make this Haj more comfortable for pilgrims.
The Minister stated that for the first time after Independence, 2,340 Muslim women from India will go on Haj 2019 without Mehram (male companion). He added that as per the directions of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Ministry has made arrangements to send these women on Haj without lottery system.
The Minister informed that above 2 lakh 67 thousand applications had been received for Haj 2019 out of which 1,64,902 applications were online.
The Training of Trainers Programme is being held to make trainers aware of the “Dos and Don’ts” during Haj pilgrimage; it includes information about transport, accommodation in Saudi Arabia and the laws of Saudi Arabia. The training is being imparted by officials from Haj Committee of India; Royal Consulate of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines; Air India; Customs and Immigration officials and doctors. More than 600 trainers from different states are participating in the programme. The trainers will then train Haj pilgrims in training camps across the country.
On the occasion, the Minister also inaugurated the renovated Conference Hall and Passport Office at Haj House.