Govt to procure a ship for Haj pilgrimage?

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The Union Minorities Affairs Ministry is planning to either buy a ship or take a ship on lease to facilitate Haj pilgrimage with reduced financial burden. Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had a meeting on this issue last week.

The minority affairs minister sought help from the shipping ministry to provide all details to ease out burden on the hajies. They also discussed security issues of Haj pilgrims from the Somalian pirates.

The government was actually concerned about the poor hajis who would find it difficult to bear the cost of Haj in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling to end subsidy on Haj in a phased manner.

Haj subsidy has to go by 2022. In an attempt to ease out the financial ‘burden’ on Haj pilgrims, the government is planning to look for an alternative sea route as a cheaper option.

Sources told सिर्फ़ News that the minority ministry wanted to either buy a new ship to ferry Haj pilgrims or to buy a ship secondhand, albeit in a good condition, for the purpose. Procuring a ship on lease was another option before the ministry. Issues like how old the ship could be and how long it would take pilgrims to reach Jeddah by sea route were also discussed.

Sudan and Egypt are the only two countries which are still using sea routes for Haj pilgrimage. However, the distance to these places from Jeddah is not much in comparison to India.

Safety and security of Haj pilgrims from Somalian pirates was also discussed in the meeting. The number of pilgrims a ship can accommodate was discussed, too. The ship known as Akbaris used to accommodate 1,500 pilgrims while Noorjahan can carry 1,700. There are a total of six or seven ships including Mohammadi and Muzaffari that are used for this purpose. The government also inquired from the shipping ministry whether any cargo ship could be converted to ferry Haj pilgrims.

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