The draft Haj Policy 2018-22 has proposed the abolishing of Haj subsidy and allowing women above the age of forty-five to travel without a Mehram in a group of atleast 4 women. The proposed policy was submitted to the Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Saturday.
According to the proposed policy, the committee has suggested to abolish the subsidy provided to Muslims traveling for Haj. Moreover, the policy also suggests to allow Muslim women above the age of 45 to go for Haj without a Mehram (a Mehram is a male member of the family to whom the woman can never marry, i.e., father, son and brother). Women in groups of four atleast and above the age of 45 years will now be allowed to travel to Haj.
The drafting committee that was headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah has also recommended to reduce the number of embarkation points (EPs) from 21 to 9. Embarkation points are places from where pilgrims used to take flights for Saudi Arabia. The functioning EPs will be in Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kochi. The committee has also recommended building of Haj houses in these EPs.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi while speaking to PTI on the same said, "A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had, during the Congress regime in 2012, directed that the Haj subsidy be done away with. Hence, in the new policy, as per the recommendations of a committee, we have decided to do away with the Haj subsidy gradually." The minister stressed that the money will be instead spent on empowering the Muslim community.
Apart from abolishing Haj subsidy and allowing Muslim women above the age fof 45 to travel without a Mehram, the committe has made several other recommendations. The committee recommended that coupons for 'Adahi' (sacrifice of animals) should be made compulsory for all the Muslims. The committee also recommended to increase the quota of Mehram from 200 to 500. Besides that it was also proposed that the quota for Jammu and Kashmir pilgrims be increased from 1,500 to 2,000.
One of the most notable recommendations of the committee is the distribution of the Haj quota between the Haj Committee of India and private tour operators in the ratio of 70:30 for the next five years. The private tour operators are expected to make transactions through bank in order to ensure transparency in the process.
The recommendations also took into account the extension of 'Umra' and 'Ziyarat' to Syria, Iran Iraq and Jordan and ascertaining willingness of Saudi Arabia to the proposal of transportation of pilgrims by ship for the pilgrimage.
"EPs are being reduced keeping in mind ship journeys. It proposes inviting global expressions of interest from vessel owners having a capacity of 4,000 plus passengers... Even if 10 such trips are made to Saudi Arabia, 40,000 to 50,000 pilgrims can easily be ferried," a source told PTI.