MUMBAI: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi Sunday said a record number of two lakh Indian Muslims will go to Haj this year, that too without any subsidy, on more than 500 flights from 21 embarkation points across the country.
Addressing a meeting of representatives of private tour operators (PTOs) at Haj House in Mumbai, Naqvi said while 1.40 lakh pilgrims will go through the Haj Committee of India, the rest 60,000 will make the pilgrimage with the help of PTOs.
A total of 725 PTOs will take Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. All the PTOs will have to take 10 thousand pilgrims on the rates decided by Haj Committee of India, he said, adding that a portal of PTOs -- http://haj.nic.in/pto/ has been developed containing details of tour packages etc.
"The Ministry of Minority Affairs received serious complaints against some PTOs. This year, three PTOs have been blacklisted. Strict action was taken against several of them last year as well," he said.
"The number of women Haj pilgrims going without mehram (male companion) has increased this year and stood at 2,340. Around 48 per cent of the two lakh Haj pilgrims from India are women," the minister informed.
Naqvi said Saudi Arabia's decision to increase India's Haj quota to two lakh had ensured the clearing of waiting lists from all big states.
For the first time since Independence, all applicants from states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar will go for the Haj pilgrimage this year, thanks to the enhanced quota, he added.
Naqvi said making the entire Haj process online has ensured the pilgrimage was not expensive despite withdrawal of subsidies, adding that the process was now "pro pilgrims".
A total of 14 health centres (11 in Makkah and three in Madina) have been established along with three hospitals in Makkah and one hospital in Madina to ensure proper health facilities for Haj pilgrims, the minister said.
A total of 620 Haj coordinators, assistant Haj officers, Haj assistants, doctors, paramedics etc have been deployed, including a large number of women, informed the minister.