NEW DELHI: The first batch of Haj pilgrims was today flagged off by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who said the preparations for ensuring a smooth pilgrimage have been completed.
The first batch of 410 Haj pilgrims from Delhi left for Madina from the Indira Gandhi International Airport this morning.
A total of 1,28,702 pilgrims will be facilitated by the government across India through the Haj Committee this year.
Over 1,200 Haj pilgrims are leaving Delhi for Saudi Arabia in three flights today.
Besides Delhi, 450 pilgrims from Gaya, 269 from Guwahati, 900 from Lucknow and 1,020 pilgrims from Srinagar are also leaving for Saudi Arabia today for Haj.
Naqvi said that the Ministry of Minority Affairs, in cooperation with the Saudi Arabia Haj Consulate, Haj Committee of India and other concerned agencies, had completed preparations for Haj 2018 well before time to ensure a smooth pilgrimage.
Noting that Haj 2018 is being organised according to the new Haj Policy, the minister said it had made the entire Haj process transparent and ensured better facilities for the pilgrims.
Naqvi said despite the removal of the Haj subsidy and various new taxes imposed in Saudi Arabia, there was no additional financial burden on the pilgrims.
He also said that Rs 57 crore less will be paid to airlines this year as compared to 2017 for Haj pilgrims travelling through the Haj Committee of India.
Naqvi said that it was the first time after Independence, that 1,75,025 Muslims from India were going for Haj this year.
He said more than 47 per cent females are going for Haj this year and for the first time 1,308 Muslim women, travelling without 'Mehram' or male companion, were among them.
Delhi Revenue and Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot, Haj Committee of India Chairman Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser, Delhi Haj Committee Chairman and MLA Mohammad Ishraq Khan and Minority Affairs Ministry Secretary Ameizing Luikham, were also present at the airport.
On July 17 pilgrims from Kolkata, on July 20 pilgrims from Varanasi, on July 21 pilgrims from Mangalore, on July 26 pilgrims from Goa and on July 29 pilgrims from Aurangabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Nagpur, will embark for Haj.
On July 30, pilgrims from Ranchi, on August 1 pilgrims from Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Hyderabad and Jaipur, and on August 3, pilgrims from Bhopal, will embark for Haj.