- Haj is one of the most complex organizational tasks undertaken by Government of India outside its borders.
- It is a five day religious congregation and a virtually a year-long managerial exercise.
- Indian Haj pilgrims who constitute one of the largest national group perform Haj through two streams:
- The Haj Committee of India (HCOI)
- Registered Private Tour Operators (PTOs)
- HCOI established under the Haj Committee Act 2002 is responsible for making the arrangements for pilgrims performing Haj through them. All arrangements for the HCoI pilgrims in Saudi Arabia are coordinated by the Consulate General of India, Jeddah.
- The Haj quota for India is fixed by the Saudi Arabian Government.
New Haj Policy
- The 2018 Haj pilgrimage will be in line with the new Haj policy.
- The committee for the New Haj policy was headed by former Parliamentary Affairs Secretary Afzal Amanullah and it submitted its recommendations to Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
- Women Haj pilgrims are required to be accompanied by a mehram – a male relative who she cannot marry, such as father, brother or son. However, the rule may not be insisted upon if they are over 45 but do not have a male mehram, and their “school of thought permits” them to do so, the committee said.
Its other major recommendations include:
- The Saudi Arabian government should be consulted regarding the possibility of Haj travel by ship, which would be cheaper than air travel.
- The quota for mehram travellers may be increased from 200 to 500.
- The special quota for pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir may be increased from 1,500 to 2,000.
- A “robust portal” to be developed for the processing of applications for private tour operators.
- The quota for pilgrims travelling under the ambit of Haj Committee and those through private tour operators be allocated at 70:30.