The Hajj season will begin in August, when hundreds and thousands of Muslims will embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina from India and other countries around the globe. The annual Hajj quota was significantly increased to 1.70 lakh people by the Saudi Arabia government for Indian muslims.
However, there have been concerns related to the subsidy given to Hajj pilgrims by the government on the air fares. As the fear of increased Hajj costs might worry some potential Hajis (a person who has been to Mecca as a pilgrim), a PTI report on Wednesday brings relief.
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According to the report, the government has formed a high-level committee to frame the Hajj Policy for 2018, and a major highlight of the plan is to consider restarting the option to send pilgrims from India to Jedda, Saudi Arabia, via sea route. The practice was stopped in 1995 after MV Akbari, the ship used to transport pilgrims, was put out of commission, a source within the Union Minority Affairs Ministry told PTI.
Currently, Hajj pilgrims receive discounted air fares on Air India. By adding a sea travel option, pilgrims can now choose between the two as MoS for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the air services will continue to be available.
If everything goes as planned, Muslims could travel from Mumbai port to Jeddah by ship to perform the annual pilgrimage as early as next year. Taking the sea route will cut down the travel expenses by "nearly half" compared to the airfares, according to a source.
Unlike travelling by ship over two decades ago, the advanced ferries with modern facilities will also reduce the journey time between Mumbai and Jeddah from nearly a week to just 2-3 days. It takes nearly 6 hours to cover the distance from one of the 21 locations in India to Jeddah by air. But the two-three days travel will give pilgrims more time to learn about the rituals of Hajj thoroughly.
According to the source, the ferries are well-equipped to accommodate 4,000 to 5,000 people at a time. The ships leaving from the Port of Mumbai will cover a distance of 2,515 nautical miles (1nm=1.8km), crossing the Arabian Sea and reaching Jeddah via Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
Are you excited about revival of the decades-old mode of transport for Hajj pilgrims? Let us know in the comments below.