Key InformationMinister of Minority Affairs: Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Capital of Saudi Arabia: Riyadh
Currency of Saudi Arabia: Riyal
King of Saudi Arabia: Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Minister of Haj and Umrah of Saudi Arabia: Dr. Mohammad Saleh Bin Taher Benten
Objective: To cut down the travel expenses of Haj pilgrims by using sea route.
Highlights of New Haj policy 2018
- India signed a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route.
- This agreement is important as Supreme Court of India in 2012 ordered to abolish the subsidies of Haj pilgrimage by 2022.
- The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims by sea route between Mumbai and Jeddah (city of Saudi Arabia) was terminated from 1995 due to the ship MV Akbari.
- This time, the Haj voyage procedure will be online.
- This new policy aims to reduce the travel expenditure as ship route is quite cheaper than airway.
- Earlier old ships usually taken 12-15 days but these days ship takes 3 to 4 days and covers 2,300 odd-nautical (distance) (1 nautical =1.8 kilometre)
- Ships are well equipped and modern to carry 4000-5000 persons at a time.
- India’s Haj quota increased to1 lakh 75 thousand 25 India Muslim pilgrims.
- This Haj policy strengthens the relation between India and Saudi Arabia.
Benefits to women
- Indian women can also go to Haj without her “Mehram” (male partner).
- Separate facilities like accommodation and transport facilities will be provided to these women.
- A woman called ‘Haj assistant’ will also provide in Haj voyage for their assistance.
- Women above 45 years age can go without Mehram (male companion) in a group of 4 or more.
- Women will be exempted from lottery system according to New Haj Policy 2018.
- Subsidy means a discount, Indian government gives Haj subsidy to Indian Muslims who want to go Haj by flight; it was started in 1954 by the first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru for only airways between Mumbai and Jeddah.
- Since 1984, all Haj traffic has been shared by only two flights i.e. Air India (India’s carrier) and Saudia (Saudi Arabia’s carrier).
- Haj subsidy is given to those pilgrims who go through the Haj Committee of India and not by private operators.
- The Haj subsidy is not directly provided to Haj pilgrims but it is provided to Indian air carrier (Air India).
Why Supreme Court eliminate subsidy?
- The Supreme Court of India observed that Haj subsidy had been rising every year with the increase in airfare. So, The Supreme Court of India (a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai) directed the central to gradually reduce and then abolish subsidy in coming 10 years by 2022. This order was passed in the year 2012.
- Since 2012, Haj subsidy is reducing year by year after the Supreme Court judgement on Haj subsidy.
- But apex Court does not want to make Haj subsidy scrap. The court wants to utilize this subsidy in the upliftment of the society also suggested, using subsidy amount for the educational needs of Muslims.
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