Special passport adalat for Haj pilgrims

Special passport adalat for Haj pilgrims

People above 70 to get confirmed seats

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna greets the delegates during the 27th All India Annual Conference for Haj in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Monday announced that the people aged 70 years and above would henceforth be ensured confirmed seats on the government-arranged special flights to Saudi Arabia. They would also be able to take one companion each to the holy Mecca and Medina. The companions too would be exempted from the lottery and have confirmed seats in the flight.

“It has been decided to allocate confirmed seats to all the intending pilgrims over 70 years of age along with a companion, with effect from this year,” Krishna said in his inaugural address to the annual Haj conference here. He said efforts were on to introduce several reforms in the management of Haj, including speedier issuance of passports.

The government decided that all the pilgrims selected by the Haj Committee of India would be given passports with validity of eight months without police verification.
The Regional Passport Offices would hold special ‘passport adalats’ to issue these special passports.

The government would also ensure confirmed seats on special flights for those who applied for quota allotment but failed in the lottery.

 “A decision was taken last year to allow those Haj pilgrims who have applied unsuccessfully for three consecutive years to be automatically given a seat without having to participate in the draw of lots or ‘Qurrah’. This has already been implemented,” the External Affairs Minister said.

A record number of 170171 from India performed Haj in 2010, despite late start due to several court cases challenging various aspects of the policy and practice of the government in facilitating the annual pilgrimage.

India also requested Saudi Arabia to enhance its quota for Haj pilgrims. Krishna conveyed New Delhi’s request to Saudi Arabian government during his visit to Jeddah last March.
Active preparations are underway for Haj 2011 and review meeting for Haj 2010 has been held in February 2011 in Jeddah.

Krishna also referred to the many measures and reforms  initiated in the Haj process in the recent past, including elections of zonal representatives last year. As members of the Haj Committee of India, the zonal representatives made a valuable contribution.

“Other measures include increasing the number of embarkation points from 19 to 21; setting up of an inter-Ministerial committee on charter flights for Haj pilgrims in order to provide better facilities; and opening a Helpline by our Consulate General in Jeddah for our pilgrims in Saudi Arabia,” he said, noting that Haj Committee of India was making efforts to introduce standardised baggage system for Haj pilgrims.

The Haj Committee of India is taking all necessary steps to arrange for accommodation for the pilgrims for the 2011 pilgrimage.

 Over 12,5000 units have already been approved for hiring. Process is on for signing of agreement with the landlords in this regard.

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