Valid passports must for Indian Haj pilgrimage from 2012

May 22nd, 2012 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) The government has brought about changes in the Haj pilgrimage programme and a key one is that all pilgrims must have a valid passport, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said here Tuesday.

Inaugurating the 28th All India Annual Conference for Haj 2012 here, Krishna said despite passports being made compulsory, the Haj Committee has received more applications than last year.

“We have introduced some new improvements this year too… Effective Haj 2012, Haj applications must have the proof of valid passports,” Krishna said in his address.

“The ministry of external affairs has worked hard to bring about this significant change because of which every pilgrim this year will have an international passport before proceeding on his pilgrimage,” he said.

“I am happy to state that the Haj committee has received more applications this year than last year despite the passport having been made compulsory,” he added.

Another major change brought out in the Haj programme of the government is that effective 2012, a pilgrim can use the facility of performing the pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India only once in his or her life time as against once in five years, which was the case hitherto.

The Haj Conference 2012, with delegates from all over the country, discussed the issues of concern and collectively consider the solutions and improvements to make this year’s pilgrimage successful.

Krishna also noted that the Haj committee this year has come out with a very lucid and easy to understand Haj guide which will be a great help to Hajis.

“We have also commenced the work to explore the possibility of permanent accommodation for our Hajis so that their stay can be made comfortable and affordable as and when the regime is put in place. A committee has been set up on this issue and it has already had its first meeting last evening,” he said.

On May 8, the Supreme Court had, while hearing a government petition, ruled that the government should phase out the Haj subsidy in 10 years. India’s Haj subsidy bill works out to over Rs.600 crore and over three lakh Muslims avail of this facility to travel to Makkah and Madina.

Krishna said in 2012, the government started preparations for Haj very much ahead of time.

“As always, we have framed our Haj policy keeping in view the principle objective of the safety and security and comfort and convenience of our pilgrims,” he said.

The government had planned to announce the 2012 Haj policy in January or February. But the petition filed by the central government before the Supreme Court seeking a stay of the Mumbai High Court order on Haj policy 2011 had been converted into a public interest litigation by the apex court to examine the entire Haj policy.

“It was only after the interim verdict was announced by the court on May 8 that the Haj 2012 policy could be finalised and released and that was done on May 18,” Krishna added.

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