Maulanas and Ulemas have opposed the Central government’s new Haj policy that allows women above 45 years of age to go for Haj without a mahram in a group of four or more. Terming the decision against the Islamic principles, they said that they will not accept the government’s proposed changes in the practice.
Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali , an executive member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said that they are okay with the government preparing new Haj policy but any changes with the Sharia law is acceptable to them. He accused the government of forcefully meddling with the Sharia law and suggested not to make changes in the Islamic laws.
Draft Haj policy proposes abolishing Haj subsidy
On the other hand, Chairman of National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Gairul Hasan Rizvi, questioned those who are opposing the government’s proposed changes in the Haj policy that aims to provide women equal rights.
He said that the government was not interfering in the religious laws and it is a bold step towards empowering women.
Last week, a government-appointed panel for revising India's Haj policy has recommended abolishing subsidy for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mekkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia besides allowing women devotees aged over 45 to travel in a group of at least four without a male relative. The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22, submitted to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, has been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court direction to gradually reduce and completely remove the subsidy by 2022.
In a major reform, the draft policy proposed to partially quash an earlier rule that barred women Haj aspirants to travel without 'mehram', a close family member like husband, father or brother. The panel recommended that ladies above 45 years of age be allowed in a group of four or more to go for Haj without a mahram. Women below 45, however, will have to be accompanied by a male family member, according to the draft policy that proposes to increase the quota for mehrams from 200 to 500.
Among other recommendations, made by the panel headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah, are bringing down the number of embarkation points from which pilgrims can take flights to Saudi Arabia from the present 21 to nine.
The embarkation points for Haj pilgrims from next year would be New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kochi and Ahmedabad. The distribution of quota between Haj Committee of India and private tour operators will be in the ratio of 70:30 -- almost a five percent hike for the private players.
This year, the Haj quota for India -- home to the world's third largest Muslim population -- was increased to 170,025, of which 125,025 was allocated to the Haj committee and 45,000 to the privater tour operators.
On the long-pending proposal to revive Haj pilgrimage by ship, Naqvi said the Saudi government would be consulted and then it would float an expression of interest to guage the market for such travel.
Independent tour operators say travel by ship would drastically reduce the cost per pilgrim to around Rs 60,000, making it affordable to a larger section of the population.
Regarding the distribution of Haj quota among states and Union Territories, the panel has recommended that it should be in the ratio of the Muslim population and in proportion to the number of applications received from each state or union territory. Special quota for Haj pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir will be increased from existing 1,500 to 2,000.
Also the reserved category of applicants in the 70-plus age group and fourth-timers has been abolished and they would go through the normal lottery.