Saudi government raises India's Haj quota to 2 lakh: Sources
New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The Saudi Arabian government has issued a formal order, notifying increase in Indias Haj quota to 2 lakh from 1.75 lakh, about two months after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave the assurance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, official sources said here on Friday.
The decision, taken on Thursday, will ensure that for the first time since Independence, all the Haj applicants from all big states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar can go for the pilgrimage this year as their waiting lists have been cleared due to the increase in the quota, the sources said.
The Saudi Crown Prince, during his visit here in February, had announced at a meeting with the Prime Minister and attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi that India's Haj quota would be increased by about 25,000, raising the number to 2 lakh.
This is the third hike in three consecutive years. In 2017, the quota was increased by 35,000 while last year, it was raised by 5,000 to take the number to 1,75,000, the sources said.
"Due to the significant increase in India's Haj quota, all the applicants from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Odisha, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Tripura will go to Haj 2019," the sources said.
This time, 2,340 Muslim women from India will also go for Haj without 'Mehram' or male companion, they said.
For this year's Haj pilgrimage, 34,397 applications have been received from Uttar Pradesh, 8,470 from West Bengal, 191 from Goa, 499 from Manipur, 698 from Odisha, 2,138 from Andhra Pradesh, 3,588 from Assam, 4,950 from Bihar, 72 from Himachal Pradesh, 2,233 from Jharkhand, 342 from Punjab, 110 from Tripura and all these applicants have become eligible after increase in India's Haj quota, the sources said.
"Making the entire Haj process completely online and digital has not only ensured that Haj pilgrimage has not become expensive even after removal of Haj subsidy, it has also made the Haj process absolutely pro-pilgrim," they said.
By ensuring transparency in the Haj process and making it 100 percent online and digital, the airfare for the pilgrimage has decreased significantly, the sources said, adding in 2018, even after removal of Haj subsidy, pilgrims saved about Rs 57 crore in air fares.
The GST on Haj pilgrimage has been reduced from 18 per cent to 5 per cent this year, which will ensure that about Rs 113 crore will be saved by pilgrims during the 2019 Haj, they said.
Besides, accommodation in Madina has been taken on 100 Saudi Riyals less in comparison to the last year which will result into Indians saving about Rs 3,000 per pilgrim, the sources said.