The government of India’s proposal to send its Hajj pilgrims through the sea route has got the green signal from the Saudi Arabian government, union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Monday.
The discussion on reviving the sea route came up during the signing of the annual bilateral Hajj agreement for 2018 between India and Saudi Arabia in the presence of Naqvi and Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh bin Taher in Makkah on Sunday.
Naqvi said that officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Hajj pilgrimage through the sea route can commence in the coming years.
“Sending pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses significantly. It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision,” Naqvi said.
The ferrying of Hajj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterway was stopped in 1995.
The minister said that another advantage with ships available these days is they are modern and well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at a time. They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah in just three to four days.
The old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance.
Naqvi said that last year he had discussed the option to revive sea route for Hajj pilgrimage with transport and shipping minister NitinGadkari.
He said that Hajj 2018 has been made fully digital.
On the issue of Muslim women going to Hajj for the first time without mehram (male guardian), the minister said that separate accommodation and transport has been arranged for these women.
Also, female Hajj assistants will be deployed for their help.
More than 1,300 women have applied to go for Hajj without mehram and all of these women will be exempted from the lucky draw. These women would be travelling in groups of four or more women, according to the new Hajj policy of India. (IANS)