MALAPPURAM: With Saudi Arabia agreeing to the Minority Affairs Ministry's demand to revive the ship service for Haj, pilgrims in the state are upbeat. The move will bring down the travel expenses for Haj and it will provide pilgrims with an opportunity to experience a voyage as well.
State Haj Committee chairman Thodiyur Mohammed Kunji Moulavi, who hailed the new move, said it will draw more devotees, especially underprivileged pilgrims. "Haj will be made affordable. And pilgrims will get different options," the chairman said. It's expected the ship service will bring down the travel expense by a big margin.
Currently, pilgrims are levied up to Rs 80,000 towards flight tickets. Travel agents say ship ticket charge will stand between Rs 15,000 and 20,000.
The decision to revive the ship route was taken during the signing of bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement between India and Saudi Arabia earlier this year. The agreement was signed by the Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhthar Abbas Naqwi and Saudi Arabia Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh Bin Taher Benten at Mecca.
The Haj Committee of India has published a notification inviting expression of interest from companies to operate ship service from the country to Saudi Arabia. The plan is to start the service in 2019.
The chairman said the State Haj Committee has so far received no official communication in this regard. "We are clueless about how pilgrims from the state would react towards the new facility. The Haj committee will arrange all facilities for interested pilgrims from the state if the new system is introduced," he said.