Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said Rs 57 crore less will be paid to airlines this year for Haj pilgrims travelling through the Haj Committee of India even after the ending of subsidy for the pilgrimage.
He said that despite the removal of the Haj subsidy and various new taxes imposed in Saudi Arabia, Indians were going for the pilgrimage without any additional financial burden.
At a training camp for Haj Coordinators, Assistant Haj Officers or Haj Assistants in Delhi, the Union minister said that for the first time after the Independence, a record 1,75,025 Indians were going for Haj this year, of which 47 per cent are female, which is another record.
Last year, Rs 1,030 crore was paid to airlines as air fare for 1,24,852 Haj pilgrims, while this year, Rs 973 crore will be paid to airlines for 1,28,702 Haj pilgrims travelling through the Haj Committee of India, Mr Naqvi said.
"Rs 57 crore less will be paid to airlines this year even after ending the Haj subsidy," a statement from his office quoted the minister as saying at the event.
The government had in January announced that there would be no subsidy for Haj from this year and the funds saved will be used for providing education to people belonging to minority communities.
The decision was in line with a 2012 Supreme Court order, asking the government to do away with the subsidy.
Mr Naqvi said in total 3,55,604 applications had been received for Haj, which included 1,89,217 male and 1,66,387 female.
For the first time, Muslim women from India are going for Haj without 'Mehram' (male companion). A total of 1,308 women are going for Haj this year without 'Mehram', he said, adding a large number of women Haj coordinators, Haj Assistants and 'Khadim Ul Hujjaj', doctors and para-medics have been deployed in Saudi Arabia.
A total of 98 Assistant Haj Officers, Haj Assistants, Haj Coordinators, doctors and para-medics have been deployed to assist the pilgrims.
This time, pilgrims were also given a choice of embarkation points, a step which has received an overwhelming response, Mr Naqvi said.
At the event today, representatives from the Minority Affairs Ministry, Health Ministry and Urban Development Ministry informed the attendees in detail, various issues concerning Haj pilgrims, such as their health, safety and accommodation.
Flights for Haj will start from July 14, when pilgrims from Delhi, Gaya, Guwahati, Lucknow and Srinagar will embark on pilgrimage.
On July 17 pilgrims from Kolkata, on July 20 those from Varanasi, on July 21 from Mangalore, on July 26 from Goa and on July 29 pilgrims from Aurangabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Nagpur, will embark on Haj, a statement from the minister's office said.
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 go for Haj, it said.