Saudi Arabia has approved India's plan to revive the option of ferrying Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Monday.
Naqvi made the announcement after the signing of annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia in Mecca.
"Saudi Arabia has given its nod to revive the option of sending pilgrims by sea route...Officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through sea route can be started in the coming years," Naqvi said.
For the first time, Muslim women from India will go to Haj without “Mehram” (male companion). Separate accommodation & transport has been arranged for these women Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and women “Haj Assistant” will be deployed for their assistance. pic.twitter.com/FswUoPdl7D— Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (@naqvimukhtar) January 8, 2018
Naqvi said that sending pilgrims through ships would help cut down travel expenses significantly and added that it would be a "revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision".
The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways existed earlier too but was stopped in 1995.
Muslim women can now perform Haj without male guardian
Naqvi also said that for the first time Muslim women from India will go to Haj without 'Mehram' (male companion).
The term Mehram refers to a male, a woman cannot marry in her life (i.e. father, brother or son etc). Till now, women pilgrims would be required to be accompanied by their husbands or 'Mehrams' during the annual pilgrimage.
According to the ministry of minority affairs, Muslim women aged above 45 will now be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without 'mahram' in a group of at least four.
According to the sources, about 1,300 Muslim women have applied to perform Hajj without 'mahram' and women from different parts of the country from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Hajj pilgrimage.
Exemption from Lucky draw
Muslim women who have applied to go for Hajj without a 'mehram' (husband or a male first blood relation as guardian) this year have been exempted from the lucky draw system that the Hajj Committee operates, the government said on Sunday.
This means that all the 1,300-odd women who have applied for Hajj will be able to travel with no quota restrictions.
OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)