Number of Haj pilgrims from Bengal to be halved in 2021 Haj Committee Member

    Kolkata, Nov 18 (PTI) The number of Haj pilgrims from
the state will be halved next year due to the COVID-19
pandemic, a senior member of the West Bengal State Haj
Committee said on Wednesday.
    The cost of the Haj pilgrimage next year will rise due
to the COVID-19 safety protocols, he said.
    The state Haj committee has received 1,100
applications since November 10 from people living in different
districts of the state expressing interest to go on a Haj
pilgrimage in 2021, he said.
    "The situation is grim and travelling is quite a
challenging thing amid this COVID-19 pandemic. This time we
will only be allowed only 3,500 to 4,000 pilgrims to go on Haj
in 2021. The cost of individual pilgrims will also be
increased owing to the COVID-19 safety protocols," the member
of the state committee told PTI.
    From Bengal, in the pre-COVID-19 time at least 9,000
pilgrims used to go on the Haj pilgrimage annually, he said.
    "But due to the COVID-19 situation, the Haj Committee
of India has decided to allow only one-fourth of the total
number who are allowed to take the Haj pilgrimage," he added.
    The member said that there will be no limitations of
accepting the number of applications seeking to go on Haj
pilgrimage, but the final decision will be taken by the state
committee only after a proper screening of their health.
    "Proper medical screening will be done to check
whether these people are having serious health-related issues
or not. Any person having any serious medical condition will
not be allowed to travel this time," the member said.
    In fact, it would be for the first time that the state
Haj committee, after screening the applications, will go for
the lottery system to select the pilgrims, he said.
    "This year we are not accepting any application fee.
Only after screening the applicants' medical health, we will
choose them through lottery. After that we will accept Rs 1.5
lakh in advance and the requisite documents like passport,
Aadhaar card from selected people to initiate the process of
their travel," the member elaborated.
    Till November 17, the committee has received 1,100
applications mostly from Murshidabad district besides, Malda,
North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Uttar Dinajpur and
    The applications will be accepted till December 10 and
the lottery will be conducted in January, the member added.
    On the reason behind the increase in the cost of
travel for an individual to take the Haj pilgrimage, he said
that earlier six persons used stay in one room but due to
COVID-19 pandemic only three will be allowed.
    "The cost of living there in Saudi Arabia's Mecca is
quite high and now only three people will be allowed to stay
in one room where earlier we used to accommodate six. So the
costs are increasing by leaps and bounds," he said.
    People earlier used to spend around Rs 2.65 lakh to go
on Haj pilgrimage, will now be required to cough up Rs 1.75
lakh more, he said.
    The Haj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca,
considered to be the most holy city of the Muslims.
    The next year's Haj is likely to take place in mid-
    The Minority Affairs department had cancelled travel
of Muslims to Saudi Arabia for this year's Haj after the
kingdom conveyed that pilgrims should not be sent this year in
the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. PTI SCH

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)