Over 4300 Ladies Without Mehram (LWM) from India would undertake Haj pilgrimage which would be the largest ever contingent of women proceeding on Haj alone without a male member.
Official information said that out of a total of 1.84 lakh applications received, 14,935 Haj applicants have been given assured allotment (including 10,621 in over 70 yers age category and 4,314 Ladies Without Mehram (LWM). The applications for Haj were received and the selection of pilgrims was all done online.
The applications received over and above the Haj quota have been finalized through an Online Randomized Digital Selection (ORDS) process, without any human intervention.
It is for the first time that the list of selected and waitlisted applicants has been published on the official portal immediately after the selection process, for the general public, in the interest of increased transparency. All 1.4 Lakhs selected pilgrims have been sent SMS informing them of their selection for Haj 2023. SMS has also been sent to waitlisted pilgrims informing them about their waitlisted status and position in the waitlist.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs has partnered with State Bank of India(SBI) to make special arrangements to provide Forex facilities to the pilgrims.
Unlike earlier years, when each pilgrim was made available 2100 Riyals by the Haj Committee of India, irrespective of his actual requirements, Haj Policy 2023 gives the option and flexibility to the pilgrims to arrange their own foreign currency or take lesser foreign exchange, as per their individual requirements. The Government has collaborated with SBI, to ensure supply of forex to the pilgrims at the most competitive rates.
With more than 22,000 branches all over India, SBI shall facilitate providing forex and mandatory insurance for all the pilgrims, to meet the requirements during their stay in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The bank will reach out to the pilgrims in this connection by way of SMS, an official statement said.
Facility of forex card is also being provided to all the pilgrims thereby eliminating the possibility of theft or loss of physical currency. In case this card is lost during the pilgrimage, the pilgrim can get his money refunded from the bank.
SBI will also arrange stalls at all embarkation points, with dedicated focal point/nodal officer of appropriate level, to facilitate the pilgrims for collection of forex in cash or through the forex Card and also to provide any guidance and help as may be required. A helpline shall be operated by SBI and the contact details of these nodal officers would be made public soon.
For Haj 2023, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has taken several initiatives to make Haj pilgrimage more comfortable, convenient and affordable for the Indian pilgrims. Dedicated efforts have also been made to make the process of pilgrim selection objective, transparent, efficient, timely and without human involvement, the statement said.
The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist, who has reported and written on a wide range of subjects in an extensive career.