New Delhi: Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday held parleys with Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to India Saud Mohammed Alasti to discuss "smooth and safe" Haj for Indian pilgrims.
Alasti has assured "full co-operation" to India for the annual pilgrimage, the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) told reporters.
At a separate event, Naqvi also launched a website (www.haj.gov.in) dedicated to Haj to help applicants understand the procedures related to the annual pilgrimage, dos and don’ts and other information.
"In order to ensure safe and smooth pilgrimage for devotees from the country, we have advanced our co-ordination with Saudi Arabia's administration. As part of the efforts, I met the Ambassador today and had detailed discussion. He hasassured the government that they will extend support to Indian pilgrims," Naqvi told reporters.
The Minister said he will also lead a delegation comprising senior officials and Haj Committee to Jeddah to hold meeting over the pilgrimage and arrangements concerned to be made in the first week of January.
To a question, Naqvi replied the government will deploy senior officials in Saudi Arabia for overseeing preparations and coordinating with local government during Haj 2017.
He also stated the Ministry is planning to form an expert committee to look into grievances of pilgrims including the alleged differences in airfare charged at 21 embarkation points in India.
Naqvi said that discussions have been held with Civil Aviation Ministry officials to provide aircraft with modern facilities for pilgrims.
Launching the website, made available in Hindi, Urdu and English languages, Naqvi also reiterated that maximum numbers of devotees should send their applications online for transparent processing and in view of their convenience.
The applications for next year's pilgrimage will be available January 2 onwards.
"Last year, only 11 per cent of the total applications, that is 45,843 applications, were received online. We want maximum pilgrims to do so. We are also going to launch a mobile application to help pilgrims send applications online," he added.
According to a statement issued by the Minister, the pilgrims can make their payments online as well as through debit cards besides cash.
The Minister informed the website gives detailed information regarding the Ministry, Haj Department, the pilgrimage, rules and regulations on Haj, Haj Committee of India and private tour operators. The website also has "Do's and Don'ts" during Haj pilgrimage and also a film informing about various aspects of the pilgrimage.
99,903 devotees went to Jeddah for Haj from 21 embarkation points across India through Haj Committee of India for Haj 2016. Apart from this, about 36,000 Haj pilgrims went there through the private tour operators....