There will be 25 embarkation points for Haj-2023 and forms for going on the pilgrimage will be out very soon with the application being available free of cost, according to the Ministry for Minority Affairs.
The ministry said the Haj policy released on Monday will bring financial relief to pilgrims.
Haj package costs have been reduced as the money that was deposited with the Haj Committee for foreign exchange and items such as umbrella, bags and bed sheets would not be charged and these things can be arranged by the pilgrims themselves, sources said.
The new Haj policy stated that out of the total number of quota allocated to the government of India, 80 per cent will be allocated to the Haj Committee of India and the remaining 20 per cent will be allocated to private operators.
“Those who have performed Haj earlier through Haj Committee of India will not be eligible to apply. In the case of ‘Mehram’ (companion) for lady pilgrims and of companions accompanying pilgrims over 70 years of age, repeaters will be allowed on payment of additional charges as applicable from time to time,” the policy stated.
Woman pilgrims and those over 70 years utilising the service of a repeater as “Mehram” must give a solemn declaration and undertaking to the effect that no first time “Mehram” is available in the family.
The Haj application forms can be obtained from state and Union Territory Haj committees free of cost or can be downloaded from the website of the Haj Committee of India at hajcommittee.gov.in or through the android mobile application “HAJ COMMITTEE OF INDIA” available on the play store.
The application forms are now free for the first time, the ministry said.
Earlier, the form used to cost ₹ 300 irrespective of whether one is selected or not. Now, the forms would be free and processing fee would be charged only from those who are selected.
According to the new Haj policy, women above 45 years of age, who wish to go for Haj but do not have a male “Mehram” and their school of thought (Maslak) permits are allowed to travel in groups of four or more.
Subject to the terms of Saudi Arabia, a single women may also apply, and the Haj Committee of India, may form a grouping with women who apply under the category, it stated.
The Consulate General of India in Jeddah will also facilitate separate living arrangements for women traveling alone for the pilgrimage, the policy said.
It said a maximum number of four applicants comprising the family members or near relatives can apply in a single cover.
While allotting seats of each state, priority would be given to the over 70 age category, women and differently-abled.
The distribution of the different states’ and union territories’ quota will proceed as in the current policy through draw of lots.
As announced earlier, the entire government discretionary quota stands cancelled from Haj-2023 onwards and will be merged into the general pool for the benefit of the common citizens.
The health certificate to be issued to the pilgrims by a medical officer will have information related to mandatory vaccinations and Covid vaccination.
The digital medical health certificate will be issued to the selected Haj pilgrim in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
All selected pilgrims more than two years of age are required to possess a certificate of inoculation with a single dose of the cerebrospinal meningitis vaccine.
The pilgrims may be allowed to get health verification and an RTPCR test from their district health units. The test shall be preferably done through government Laboratories including facilities available in Government of India Hospitals, Hospitals of Railways, ESIC hospitals etc, according to the policy.
The pilgrims will be given a choice between the embarkation point of the area and the nearest economical embarkation point as per the difference in air travel costs from the previous year.
The embarkation points are Srinagar, Ranchi, Gaya, Guwahati, Indore, Bhopal, Mangalore, Goa, Aurangabad, Varanasi, Jaipur, Nagpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kannur, Vijayawada, Agartala, and Calicut.
Also, this time all states and union territories (UTs) will be allowed to send an officer at the director level in the state or UT service and an officer of state or UT Haj committees, for looking after the pilgrims of their states and UTs.