More pilgrims can now proceed for Haj this year as Indias quota of pilgrims has been hiked by 5,000 by Saudi Arabia, the government announced on Tuesday.
The decision by Riyadh came days after Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi signed a bilateral annual agreement for Haj 2018 with Saudi Minister for Haj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten.
Now, a total of 1.75 lakh Indian citizens can go for Haj. Last year, Saudi Arabia increased India’s Haj quota by 35,000, the Minority Affairs Ministry said.
Giving credit to the hike to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “growing popularity” and India’s strengthened relations with Saudi Arabia, Naqvi said three years ago this quota was 1.36 lakh.
Saudi Arabia has also given a nod to India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims by sea. Officials from both countries will soon discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities in this regard.
About 3.55 lakh applications have been received for Haj 2018. The Haj Committee of India will finalise the names of those who can go this year for Haj through a lucky draw.
However, around 1,300 Muslim women who have applied to go for the pilgrimage without a ‘mehram’ (male guardian) will be exempt from the lucky draw and all of them will be allowed to go, the Minister said.