People visiting Mecca for the Haj will have to shell out an amount more than about Rs 19,000 from this year. This is due to increased charges for services provided to the pilgrims which the Saudi authorities provide.
The Government has made it clear that there has not been any increase of charges by the Haj Committee, but the Saudi authorities have hiked various charges. these include transportation fare, Metro train fare, bed charges in the temporary city of Mina. The rate of adahi or qurbani coupons has also been increased.
This cost has increased due to the changing rate of Saudi currency– the riyals vs Indian rupees, claimed Haj Committee CEO M A Khan, a retired IAS officer.
It is estimated that out of the 1.6 lakh pilgrims from India this year, about 1.3 lakh will go via the Haj Committee. Rest about 47,023 have chosen to go through private tour operators.
The Haj will be performed in the month of August. People who deal in tours and travels claim that after the abolition of subsidy and steep increase in Haj cost, pilgrims will likely to choose private tour operators more.
Pilgrims who visit Mecca for Haj are taken care in two categories —green, which is very near the mosque and azizya, a few km away.
It is proposed to effect an increase of up to Rs 19,000 for green and Rs 15,000 for azizya types of pilgrimages. It will depend on embarkation points too. For example, those pilgrimages who take a flight from Mumbai will pay less than those boarding from Nagpur in Maharashtra.
The Haj subsidy has been a regular feature for Indian Muslim Hajj pilgrims, offered by the Union government. It is doled out in the the form of concessional Airfares on Air India. It was continuing since pre-independence period. Later, the Union government expanded the program in 1959 with the Hajj Act.
The subsidy was initially offered to Indian Muslim pilgrims travelling for religious reasons to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Jordan only. Haj subsidy was doled out since the year 1954 only.
Additional flights were operated over the years, and since 1984, all Haj traffic has been borne by Air India and Saudia, the national carriers of both countries.