This is for the second consecutive year that Indian pilgrims have missed out on Haj, owing to the ongoing Covid pandemic.
“We had finalised about 58,000 applications (from those received) from across the country for Haj 2021. But with Saudi Arabia announcing that they will only allow 60,000 people and that too those who are residents of Saudi, we had to cancel the applications,” Haj Committee Chief Executive Officer, Maqsood Ahmed Khan, told ThePrint.
The Haj Committee of India is the nodal agency for coordinating Haj, and functions under the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
Earlier, India had said that it was ready to vaccinate Hajjis in order to prepare them for the annual pilgrimage.
“These 58,000 applications were finalised to include those who are ready to abide by the Covid protocols for those between the ages of 18-65 years. We were ready to vaccinate them as well, if the Saudi government wanted that as a condition for Haj, but now since Haj will be only for Saudi residents, all these plans have been nullified,” said Khan.
‘Only for Saudi residents’
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s state media, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) had reported that Haj 2021 will be restricted to 60,000 of its own citizens only.
“The decision was based on accurate medical scientific studies that say that the Coronavirus Pandemic is still spreading in the entire world, threatening lives,” informed the statement carried by the SPA. “Therefore, the precautionary measures should be strictly adhered to, to prevent its spread.”
The statement added that “for this reason, the decision to limit the number of the pilgrims to 60,000 and to only allow those from within the country, was taken. All pilgrims should be vaccinated and perform the rituals according to precise protocols that ensure their safety”.
Unlike other years, the Haj Committee this year hadn’t collected any money from the applicants for the pilgrimage, owing to the uncertainty around the event. “Since we hadn’t collected any money there is no question of any refund for these 58,000 applications,” said Khan.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)