Hyderabad: There has been a 70 per cent drop in applicants for Haj 2021 this season due to the pandemic situation that had forced cancellation of the pilgrimage last year.
Though the extended last date of January 10 to apply for the pilgrimage by the Haj online application is approaching fast, the response is “very poor”.
As per figures from the State Haj Committee, only 3,200 valid applications have been received so far. This is 60 per cent less than the applications from Telangana state last year.
A total of 10,752 applications were received to fill a quota of 4,700 seats with the Haj Committee of India.
Many reasons are cited for the poor response this time. For one, there will be strict restrictions even if Haj is allowed this year. Pilgrims have to keep themselves in mandatory isolation on reaching the holy places. Not more than two pilgrims will be allowed in a room at these holy places. This would split families.
Another reason is an extreme hike in Haj expenditures. The estimated cost per pilgrim now is about ₹35,000 for the Hyderabad embarkation point.
Chairman of the state Haj committee Mohammed Masihullah Khan said the poor response was due to Covid fear. Last year, the pilgrimage was put on hold due to the spread of the pandemic. This time, too, there is doubt whether the Saudi authorities will allow the pilgrimage as usual.
Mohammed Masiullah said intending pilgrims who have not applied till now may submit their application via online to the website of Haj Committee of India, www.hajcommittee.gov.in.
He also requested them to produce documents such as passports, bank proof, address proof, passport-size photos with white background along with debit or credit card to pay the online HAF processing fee. Pilgrims must have a machine-readable passport with the expiry date upwards of 10th January 2022 for applying via the Online Haj Application form for Haj-2021....