Draft Hajj policy will directly affect pilgrims; subsidy likely to be abolished

Hyderabad: The proposed Hajj police of the central government will directly affect the pilgrims. The proposed Hajj policy, drafted by a committee appointed by the Centre, has recommended abolishing of subsidy for Hajj pilgrims and allowing women devotees above 45 to travel in a group of at least four without a male. However this is conditional and will not be applicable to Hanafi and other factions where company of Mahram is compulsory for long journeys.

The committee was headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah. It was also recommended that the number of embarkation points (EPs) from which pilgrims can take flights to Saudi Arabia should be brought down from the present 21 to nine.

The new policy is likely to be implemented from Hajj 2018. According to sources, the policy has been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order asking the Centre to abolish the Haj subsidy gradually by 2022. The new policy recommends increasing the quota for Mehrams from 200 to 500. While cutting in the funds meant for subsidy, the policy also suggests sending pilgrims by ship, relatively less expensive than flights.