Revisit enhanced Hajj cost: Altaf Bukhari

File Pic of Altaf Bukhari

Apni Party President AltafBukhari Saturday urged New Delhi to revisit the new Hajj guidelines which have limited the age of pilgrims to travel to 65 years besides hiking the cost of Hajj pilgrimage by over Rs 1 lakh.

A statement of Apni Party issued here quoted Bukhari as saying that thousands of Hajj aspirants in Jammu and Kashmir who could not embark on the holy trip last year due to COVID19 pandemic would be deprived this year also due to strict Hajj guidelines issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.

“The exclusive quota for Hajj pilgrims aged 70 and above has been removed. Besides there has been a considerable hike in the Hajj cost this year which will make this holy journey unaffordable for thousands of aspirants,” Bukhari said urging the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, to take a lenient view into the matter.

He said Government of India should revisit its latest Hajj guidelines in view of the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in which the apex court had directed earmarking of an ‘exclusive quota’ for Hajj pilgrims aged 70 and above and preference for pilgrims in the age group of 65 to 69 years who have already applied for the pilgrimage five times or more.

Bukhari said with the removal of this exclusive provision meant for the elderly pilgrimage aspirants had dashed the hopes of hundreds of the families who were preparing with their lifetime savings to embark on the holy pilgrimage this year.

“The Government of India should not compromise and stick to the COVID19 protocol issued by WHO which requires each pilgrim to submit a negative RT-PCR test certificate before leaving for Saudi Arabia. This protocol can be applied to the pilgrims aged 70 and above also so that they get a chance to complete their lifetime religious obligation this year,” he said in the statement.

Bukhari said the cost of the Hajj pilgrimage had been exorbitantly increased and the selected Hajj aspirants were now supposed to deposit Rs 1.5 lakh of the first installment instead of Rs 81,000 as earlier.

“There is an increase of around Rs 1.25 lakh on the Hajj fee this year. This has made this holy trip almost unaffordable for families with poor economic background,” he said. Bukhari said that with the cancellation Hajj 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic around 2.13 lakh applicants in J&K were disappointed with the full refund of their registration fee that was initiated by the government after the cancellation process.

“I appeal the Ministry of External Affairs to take a compassionate view on the issue and revisit its Hajj guidelines 2021 so as to enable thousands of Hajj aspirants of J&K to fulfill their religious obligation smoothly,” he said.