The government has been working to make the entire Haj process online to bring in transparency and convenience for the pilgrims, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Sunday.The minister, who announced here the process for Haj 2018, said the announcement had been made one month in advance to give more time for preparations. People can apply for Haj from November 15 onwards. Naqvi said Haj 2018 will be performed according to the new Haj Policy that will be finalised soon by the ministry after examining the recommendations of the high-level committee constituted to frame the new Haj policy. The committee has submitted its report. Naqvi also launched a new Haj mobile app through which application for Haj can be directly made and the registration fee can also be paid."This app will make Haj application process easier and comfortable. Application for Haj, enquiry and information, news and updates and e-payment are some of the main features of this mobile app," he said. "For the first time, for Haj 2018, details of total expenditure to be incurred by the pilgrims is given in the Haj application form. This is a step towards transparency."The Haj application form for 2018 contains the embarkation points-wise detailed air fare comparison which will enable the pilgrims to make an informed choice about the embarkation point.
The pilgrims for the first time will get to choose the embarkation point as per their convenience. "For example, Haj air fare per pilgrim from Srinagar is Rs 1,09,692 while from Delhi it is Rs 73,697. So, the pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir can opt for Delhi embarkation point," said Naqvi. Similarly, the Haj air fare from Guwahati is Rs 1,15,646 per pilgrim while it is Rs 83,027 from Kolkata. So, the pilgrims from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim can opt for Kolkata," he explained.Pilgrims from Gaya, where the airfare is Rs 1,13,680, can also opt for Kolkata. "This will ensure that the pilgrims don't face problems even after abolition of Haj subsidy," Naqvi said.Abolition of Haj subsidy and reducing embarkation points from 21 to nine are among the principal recommendations of the committee. However, this time around the government is continuing with the 21 embarkation points as per request of the Haj Committee of India (HCI).The HCI has expressed disagreement with some of the recommendations, including that of abolishing quota for applicants above 70 years of age.Naqvi said the new Haj policy would maintain the special quota for applicants above 70 years and would allow the women above 45 years in a group of four or more to proceed for Haj without a male relative or "mehram".Last time, 1,24,940 persons performed Haj through Haj Committee of India while about 45,000 pilgrims went through private tour operators. HCI Chairman Mehboob Ali Kaiser, its CEO Maqsood Ahmed Khan and senior officials of the Minority Affairs Ministry were present on the occasion.