Haj policy seeks drastic cut in departure points

08 October, 2017, 23:54 | Author: Regina Silva
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From next year, women aged over 45 could make the Haj pilgrimage without their "mahram" or close male relatives if travelling in groups of four or more, Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Saturday. Until now, women were not allowed to go for Haj without a male guardian, thus making it hard for eligible women to travel alone for Haj. The Haj committee has made several recommendations.

What this would effectively mean is that pilgrims from in and around Mangaluru, and even many from Kasargod and surrounding places, will not be able to fly to Saudi Arabia directly from the city for the annual pilgrimage. The functioning EPs will be in Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kochi.

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). "We have asked the departments concerned to provide us with big ships that can carry up to 5,000 people in a single journey".

The abolition of the subsidy is in the already proposed Haj policy drafted by a government committee.

It proposes to increase the quota for Mehrams from 200 to 500. This will benefit UTs like Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman, Diu and Puducherry as well as smaller states such as Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Manipur.

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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.

In the case of PTOs, the committee called for development of a robust portal gor processing of PTO applications, setting up of an experts' committee to consider representations of PTOs aggrieved by Haj Division's decisions, categorisation of PTOs in three categories in accordance with their experience and financial strength and formulation of a comprehensive empanelment policy for the PTOs to facilitate easier and quicker renewals.

"It is advisable that the existing reduction plan (phasing out of subsidy) be followed", according to the recommendations.

The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22 by the panel headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah also recommends bringing down the number of embarkation points (EPs) from which pilgrims can take flights to Saudi Arabia from the present 21 to nine. J. Alam, joint secretary in charge of Haj, Ministry of Minority Affairs, was the member secretary of the committee.

The panel also recommended Haj travel by ship from Mumbai that was stopped in 1995 because of the only ship used for transporting pilgrims ended its working life, risking its further use. Adahi coupons are given to pilgrims for "qurbani", which is mandatory to be performed at the end of Haj.

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