Saudi Arabia has given its nod to India’s plan to revive the option of ferrying Haj pilgrims via the sea route to Jeddah, the Union Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said in a statement today. He made the comment after the signing of annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia in Mecca.
'Saudi Arabia has given its nod to revive the option of sending pilgrims by sea route. Officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through sea route can be started in the coming years,' Naqvi said.
Naqvi said that sending pilgrims through ships would help cut down travel expenses significantly and added that it would be a 'revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision'. The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways existed earlier too, but was stopped from 1995.
He also said that for the first time Muslim women from India will go to Haj without ‘Mehram’ (male companion). 'Separate accommodation and transport have been arranged for these woman Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and woman Haj assistants will be deployed for their assistance,' he added.
More than 1,300 women have applied to go for Haj without ‘Mehram’ All these women will be exempted from the lottery system and allowed to proceed to Haj, he added. Women above 45 years of age, who wish to go for Haj but who don’t have a male companion, are allowed to travel in groups of four or more women according to the new Haj policy of India. As part of the new Haj policy, the government has also lifted han ban on people with disabilities.