Maharashtra demands hike in Haj pilgrims quota

July 25th, 2008 - 10:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, July 25 (IANS) Maharashtra has urged the central government to hike the state’s quota for the Haj pilgrimage to 16,000 per year to cater to the growing demand for the pilgrimage, the chief minister’s office announced here Friday. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has written separate letters to Minister for Minority Affairs A.R. Antulay and Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed in this connection, his office said.

Deshmukh said the state ranked fourth in India in terms of the Muslim population, which was nearly 10 percent of the state population as per the 2001 census. A majority of the applications come from Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.

The chief minister pointed out to Antulay and Ahamed that the number of applicants to go for the Haj pilgrimage was increasing with each passing year, but the state’s Haj quota had been reduced by six percent.

In 2008, an unprecedented 33,958 applications have been received for the Haj. Last year, the figure stood at 23,880 applications. Since the past three years, the number of applicants has been growing steadily, almost at the rate of 35 percent every year.

However, the number of pilgrims who were finally selected stood at 11,359, 11,232 and 10,016, respectively, during the past three years, an official from chief minister’s secretariat told IANS.

This implied that the Haj departures from Maharasthra stood at just 28 percent of the total applicants, in view of the reduced quota for the pilgrimage that was announced this year.

In contrast, from Uttar Pradesh, nearly 48 percent of the total applicants are able to go for Haj, the official said.

In view of this, the state government has sought the quota to be hiked so that 16,000 applicants can go for Haj from Maharashtra annually, he added.

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