New Delhi | A large number of Muslim women are likely to go to Haj without ‘Mehram’ (male companion) next year, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Sunday.
Naqvi, while chairing a meeting here with representatives of organisations associated with Haj, said that Haj Committee of India has received more than 2,23,000 applications for Haj 2019 till now. The over 2,23,000 applications include about 47 percent women, he was quoted as saying by a statement released from his office.
Haj application process had started on November 7, 2018, and the last date for it is December 12. Naqvi said that more than 2,000 women have applied to go for Haj in 2019 without ‘Mehram’ with the number likely to go up.
Naqvi said that in 2018, for the first time, the Centre had lifted the ban on women going to Haj without Mehram, which resulted into about 1,300 women going for the pilgrimage without any male companion. They had been exempted from the lottery system and more than 100 women Haj coordinators and Haj assistants had been deployed to assist the Indian women Haj pilgrims, Naqvi said.
For the first time after Independence, a record number of Muslims — 1,75,025 — from India performed Haj in 2018 and that too without any subsidy, he said. Naqvi said that making the Haj process completely digital has helped in making the entire process transparent. For Haj 2019, about 1,36,000 online applications have been received and the online portal for Private Tour Operators (PTOs) is already operational, Naqvi said.
While on one hand, the portal has ensured transparency in the functioning of PTOs, on the other hand it is very beneficial for the pilgrims as they get all the necessary information, he said, adding that the new policy for the PTOs is also likely to be chalked out this year. Naqvi said that the central government, in coordination with Indian Consulate in Jeddah and various concerned agencies in Saudi Arabia, is working to ensure safety and better facilities for the pilgrims.
The bilateral Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia is likely to be signed soon, he said.