Press Trust of india

India signs bilateral Haj agreement with SA for pilgrimage

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New Delhi, Dec 13 : India signed the Bilateral Annual Haj 2019 Agreement with Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage next year at Jeddah on Thursday.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Saudi Arabia's Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten signed the agreement.

At the event, Naqvi said the Saudi government has always played an active and effective role to ensure safety and better facilities to Indian Haj pilgrims, which strengthened bilateral relations.

India-Saudi Arabia relations have achieved newer heights under the leadership and guidance of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was quoted as saying by a statement from his office.

Both the countries share strong cultural, historical, economic and political relations, the Union minister said, and thanked King Salman for his guidance and active support to making Haj, 2018, successful.

He said the Indian government, in coordination with its Saudi counterpart, the Indian consulate in Jeddah and that countries various agencies concerned are working to ensure safety and better facilities for next year's Haj pilgrims.

Naqvi said a large number of Muslim women are likely to go to Haj without 'Mehram' (male companion) next year.

More than 2,100 women had applied to go for Haj without 'Mehram' this year.

The Centre had, for the first time, lifted ban on women going for Haj without Mehram in 2018. Following this decision, around 1,300 Indian women went for the pilgrimage without any male companion. They had been exempted from the lottery system.

The Haj Committee of India has received more than 2.47 lakh applications for Haj next year of which around 1.36 lakh were online, Naqvi said, adding of the total number of applicants, 47 per cent are women.

The Union minister said for the first time since Independence, a record number of Muslims -- 1,75,000 -- from India performed Haj this year and that too without any subsidy.

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