Saudi Arabia has approved India’s plan to allow Hajj pilgrims to take the sea route to Jeddah in a few years, Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Monday.
In its proposal for a New Hajj Policy for 2018-’22, a centre government appointed panel had in October said that the Saudi government should be consulted on the matter as travelling by ship was cheaper than air travel.
“Sending Hajj pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses significantly,” Naqvi said, calling the decision “revolutionary, pro-poor [and] pilgrim-friendly.” The practice of ferrying Hajj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by the sea route was stopped in 1995, he said.
Naqvi made the statement after signing the annual Hajj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia in Mecca, PTI reported.
“Officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Hajj pilgrimage through sea route can be started in the coming years,” Naqvi said.
Naqvi also said that Indian Muslim women would be able to go for Hajj without a “mehram” – a male relative who a woman cannot marry, such as father, brother or son – if they are more than 45 years old and are travelling in groups of four or more. This was also a recommendation in the New Hajj Policy.