Hajj pilgrimage | Wikimedia Commons
Hajj pilgrimage | Wikimedia Commons
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New Delhi: The Modi government Saturday issued new Haj guidelines that, among other changes, limited the age of pilgrims allowed to travel to 65 years. However, it is yet unclear whether Haj 2021 will take place in view of the pandemic. Saudi Arabia will take a final call on the pilgrimage.

Union minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi released the guidelines at Haj House in Mumbai.

In preparation of the event, if it takes place, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the government cut down the points for flights to Saudi Arabia to 10 from 21. They include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Srinagar. Further, keeping in mind the effect of the disease on senior citizens, the age of pilgrims has been restricted between 18 and 65 years.

The new protocol also requires that each pilgrim submit a negative RT-PCR test certificate before leaving for Saudi Arabia. The test has to be conducted by an approved laboratory 72 hours before undertaking Haj.

The first batch of pilgrims is expected to depart for Saudi Arabia on 26 June 2021, and the last flight is expected to take off on 13 July 2021. The return phase will begin from 14 August 2021.

Naqvi said that national-international Protocol Guidelines would be implemented and followed during the Haj 2021. Strict norms for fitness, accommodation, period of stay, transportation and health of the pilgrims will be implemented.

According to an IANS report pilgrims will also be vaccinated on 15-16 May 2021, though the report didn’t specify which vaccines would be used.

Women who will be undertaking Haj without ‘Mehram’ (male companion) can apply as well. In 2020, more than 2,300 women had applied under this category.

The deadline for applying for Haj 2021 is 10 December 2020, and applications can be sent online, offline or through the government’s Haj mobile app.

Haj 2020 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a government notice, 2.13 lakh applications had been received for Haj in 2020. A full refund was initiated by the government after the cancellation.

The Haj 2021 process has been chalked out after deliberations between the ministries of minority affairs, health, external affairs and civil aviation, apart from the Haj Committee of India, Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, India’s Consul General in Jeddah and other involved agencies.

A review meeting for the same was held on 19 October.

Also read: The hajj to Mecca isn’t the largest Muslim pilgrimage


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