Move to allow women to go for Haj sans Mehram generate positive results: Naqvi

NEW DELHI: The government’s decision to lift a ban on Muslim women undertaking Haj pilgrimage without ‘Mehram’ (a male companion) has generated “positive” results, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Thursday. According to a statement, Naqvi made the comments while referring to a “large number” of applications the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) has received under the category. Under the category, Muslim women aged above 45 will be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without ‘Mehram’ in a group of at least four.

“The Narendra Modi government’s decision to lift the ban concerned has generated very positive results as Muslim women, from across the country, are applying in a large number under this category,” the statement quoted Naqvi as saying. The minority affairs minister made the remarks while launching a portal for private tour operators (PTOs) in the capital.

“This is another important step towards women empowerment by the government,” Naqvi added. The application process for Haj 2018 started on November 15 and more than 1,000 women have applied under the category. More than 2.63 lakh people have applied for undertaking the annual Haj pilgrimage till December 13.

Out of this, 1.38 lakh applications have been received online. “It has given a boost to the ministry’s decision to make entire Haj process digital. Besides, people are also applying through mobile app,” he said.

Naqvi said the previous distribution formula for quota between the HCoI and PTOs (73.53 per cent and 26.47 per cent, respectively) has been retained. A high-level panel formed by the government to work out the draft Haj 2018-2022 policy had recommended increase the quota of PTOs to 30 per cent. Naqvi said that Haj 2018 will be conducted according to the new policy. He said the portal for the PTOs has been launched for the first time by the ministry to ensure that the entire process related to Haj becomes fully transparent.

“The portal has been developed to carry forward Modi’s Digital India programme. The portal is aimed at addressing several issues of PTOs and Haj pilgrims,” he added. PTOs can apply online with required documents through the portal. These applications will be scrutinised by the Haj Division of the ministry.

After this, draw of lots will be done online and seat will be allocated. The portal also aims at displaying details of the rates, packages and facilities offered by the PTOs across the country, the statement said. “While the entire process has been simplified and made transparent for the PTOs, it has also been clearly instructed that any discrepancies in facilities for Haj pilgrims going through PTOs will not be tolerated,” Naqvi said.