File photo: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Photograph:( PTI )
Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Sunday that a total of 1.75 lakh pilgrims from India will go on Haj this year without any subsidy, a first after Independence.
The announcement comes after the Centre increased the total quota for the second time. It was also announced that women from India will go without a male companion for the first time.
The total pilgrims this year include 19,000 pilgrims from Delhi, 14,500 from Lucknow, 14,200 from Mumbai, 11,700 from Cochin, 11,610 from Kolkata, 8,950 from Srinagar, 7,600 from Hyderabad, 6,700 from Ahmedabad, 5,550 from Bengaluru, 5,500 from Jaipur and 5,140 from Gaya.
A total of 4,000 pilgrims from Chennai, 3,250 from Varanasi, 2,950 from Guwahati, 2,800 from Nagpur, 2,100 from Ranchi, 450 from Goa, 430 from Mangalore, 350 from Aurangabad and 254 from Bhopal will also visit Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage.
As many as 1,28,002 pilgrims — including around 47 per cent females — will go on the Muslim pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India while 47,023 will opt for the services of private tour operators.
The Minister said 355,604 applications were received for Haj this year, including 1,89,217 male and 1,66,387 female applicants.
He said at least Rs 57 crore less will be paid to airlines this year even after ending the Haj subsidy. A total of Rs 973 crore will be paid to airlines for 1,28,002 pilgrims.
Naqvi said that the Union government's decision to allow Haj pilgrims to choose the embarkation point most suited to them, instead of the earlier practice of fixing such a point for them, was benefiting those going to perform Haj.
"Due to this new rule by the Union government, Haj pilgrims can board a flight from the airport most convenient for them. It has saved the government a lot of money," he added.