By Hassan Cheruppa
SAUDI ARABIA has decided to lift from this year the reduction in the quota of Haj pilgrims imposed five years ago. It said the higher authorities approved a proposal by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior who is also chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, to restore the pilgrimage quota that existed prior to the cuts.
Minister of Haj and Umrah on Thursday thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad, and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for lifting the reduction in the quota of both domestic and foreign pilgrims. He said that the concerned authorities have made preparations to receive the additional number of pilgrims for the forthcoming Haj. Bantan said this while receiving heads of Haj delegations from Arab and Islamic countries at his office in Jeddah.
The authorities imposed a 20 percent cut in the quota for foreign pilgrims coming from each country while the number of people allowed to perform Haj within the Kingdom was reduced by 50 percent to ensure the safety of pilgrims during the largest ever expansion in the history of the Grand Mosque, which is nearing completion, as well as the expansion of mataf (circumambulating area around the Holy Kaba) and massive projects at the Holy Sites.
Crown Prince Muhammad asked all concerned departments to get ready to receive a larger number of pilgrims for the upcoming Haj. He instructed to give the Haj missions opportunity to increase the number of pilgrims so as to restore the quota in a phased manner. The Crown Prince said that the exact number of pilgrims coming from each country will be decided by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah. However, he assured that the decided quota for every country will remain intact. Under the quota system that came into effect decades ago, a country is allowed to send only one Haj pilgrim for every 1,000 Muslim citizens.
A number of Haj missions in Jeddah congratulated the Saudi leadership for restoring the Haj quota. Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh welcomed the decision, saying that it is a great move. “The Indian Haj Committee could accommodate only one fourth of the applicants after the quota cut. “The reduced quota for pilgrims under the Haj Committee was 100,020 but the number of applicants exceeded 400,000 last year. A total of 136,020 Indian pilgrims performed Haj during the last five years after imposition of a cut in quota in 2012, and they included 100,020 under Haj Committee and 36,000 who come through private tour operators,” he said. India’s quota for Haj-2012 was 170,000, but later the year the government reduced the quota by 20 percent.
Sheikh also said that launching of mobile app for Haj in India will be a further boost in streamlining the Haj operation.
“The app will complement with the integrated mobile app launched by the Jeddah Haj mission,” he said.
The Indian Haj Mission was the first foreign mission in the Kingdom to come up with an innovative Global Positioning System (GPS) application during the Haj of 2014.
India’s Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi launched at India’s Haj House in Mumbai last Monday the mobile application which will provide information and facilitate e-payments for the pilgrimage.
“It is for the first time that Haj application process is going to be digital,” Naqvi said. Applying for Haj, enquiry and information, news and updates and e-payment are the main features of the app. The application can be made directly on the app. Five adults and two infants can apply as a group.