NEW DELHI: In a first, all Haj applicants from 18 states— mostly the ones that have sizeable Muslim population — will be allowed to go on the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, official sources said on Friday.
The decision was taken in the backdrop of India’s Haj quota being increased from 1.75 lakh to 2 lakh. With the increase, India has attained the second position in the list of countries that send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, leaving behind Pakistan.
Last year, Indonesia sent the maximum number of pilgrims at 2.21 lakh people, followed by Pakistan which sent 1.80 lakh pilgrims. Sources said while India’s quota has been increased this time, the Saudi Arabian government has not hiked the quota of the other two countries.
The decision, taken on Thursday, will ensure that for the first time since Independence, all the Haj applicants from big states can go for the pilgrimage this year, said officials in the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
A formal order regarding the increase in quota has been issued by the Saudi Arabian government, officials said, adding that Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s efforts led to the hike. This is the third hike in three years. In 2017, the quota was increased by 35,000 while in 2018, it was raised to 1,75,000.
“Due to a significant increase in India’s Haj quota, all the applicants from UP, 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,” officials said.
For this year’s Haj pilgrimage, 34,397 applications were received from UP, 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 are eligible.