India not to send Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year amid Covid fears

File photo

New Delhi (NVI): The Indian Government today said it will not send Haj pilgrims from the country to Mecca this year, a day after the Saudi Arabia Government announced that a very limited number of people will be allowed to perform it in wake of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing a press conference, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “…honouring the decision of the Saudi Arabia Government because of serious challenges of Corona pandemic and keeping in mind the health and well-being of the people, it has been decided that Muslims from India will not go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj (1441 H/2020 AD).”

Naqvi said that he received a phone call from Haj and Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten yesterday and the Saudi Arabia Minister suggested not to send Haj pilgrims from India to Haj for this year.

He said that the Government has decided to refund the application money of pilgrims without any deduction.

“2 lakh 13,000 applications had been received for Haj 2020. The process has been started today to immediately refund full amount of money deposited by the applicants without any deduction. The money will be refunded through online DBT mode into bank accounts of the applicants,” Naqvi said.

The Minister informed that this year, more than 2300 women had applied to perform Haj without Mehram (male companion). “These women will be allowed to go to Haj 2021 on the basis of their application for Haj 2020 only. Besides, women who file new application, will also be allowed to go to Haj next year,” the minister said.

He further said that a total of 2 lakh Indian Muslims had performed Haj in 2019. These pilgrims included 50 per cent women. A total of 3,040 women have performed Haj after the Government ensured Muslim women can perform Haj without Mehram (male companion) in 2018.

In a statement issued last night, Saudi Arabia Ministry of Haj and Umrah said, “Due to Corona pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings, it has been decided that Haj for this year (1441 H/ 2020 AD) will be held whereby a very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.

“This decision is taken to ensure Haj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols.”

-RJV/ARK