New Delhi: Saudi Arabia has increased India’s Haj quota by 5,000, the second hike in two years, taking the number of pilgrims who can perform Haj from the country to 1,75,025, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Tuesday.
Naqvi claimed that the increase over the past two years – of nearly 40,000 – is a “record expansion” since Independence.
The increase in India’s quota will be effective from Haj to be held later this year. Saudi Arabia last year increased India’s quota by 35,000. In 2017, the Haj quota was 1,70,025.
The minority affairs minister attributed the increase to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “growing popularity” and India’s improved ties with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations under his leadership.
“It is a record expansion after Independence. The Modi government has been fulfilling the socio-economic, religious needs with honesty, without appeasement politics,” Naqvi told news agency PTI.
In a statement, he added: “Three years ago, during the Congress regime, India’s Haj quota was about 1,36,020, which has been increased to record 1,75,025 in the past two years.”
He also thanked the custodian of the two holy mosques, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and the Saudi government for the increase in India’s quota.
The Gulf country has expanded India’s quota after Naqvi signed a bilateral annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia with the Haj and Umrah Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at Mecca.
Saudi Arabia has also given the green signal for India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route, Naqvi reiterated.
He said officials from both the countries will discuss formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through sea route can start in coming years.
He said about 3.55 lakh people have applied for Haj this year, adding that for the first time Muslim women from India will go to Haj without ‘Mehram’ (male companion).
More than 1,300 women have applied to go for Haj without ‘Mehram’ and they will be exempted from lottery system and allowed to proceed for Haj.
Women above 45 years of age, who wish to go for Haj but who don’t have a male companion, are allowed to travel for Haj in groups of four or more, according to the new Haj policy of India.