Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani said her government made several changes in Haj yatra guidelines keeping in mind the interest of the people. She said her ministry disallowed a VIP delegation that visits every year Saudi Arabia.
Women pilgrims without male companion
As many as 4,314 Indian women are set to perform Haj without 'Mehram (male companion)' this year, the largest since the reform in 2018 which did away with the compulsion of a male companion with women on the pilgrimage, officials said.
Health Ministry steps in first time
In a first, the Minority Affairs Ministry has also made comprehensive arrangements for the health of the Haj pilgrims with health desks at airports and medical screening by government doctors. With a view to ensure quality health support to pilgrims, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is collaborating with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for comprehensive health arrangements for pilgrims planning to visit Mecca.
Each year, Saudi Arabia hosts around 25 lakh to 30 lakh pilgrims from across the globe to visit Mecca and India sends the third largest contingent of pilgrims in the world.
Such large number of pilgrims also poses unique public health challenges, and the medical requirements of the pilgrims in Mecca, Madina, and Jeddah must be well-cared for, a statement issued by the ministry said.
For the present year, a quota of 1,75,025 pilgrims has been allotted to India. The first flight for the pilgrimage from India will begin on May 21. With a view to ensure comprehensive and quality services to the pilgrims, Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya have undertaken a series of meetings accompanied by officials from both ministries.
In the last three months, more than 10 meetings have been organized on the subject between both ministries and a detailed plan of action has been finalized, the statement said.
The Health Ministry accordingly has issued directions to all states on March 21, wherein they have been advised to provide for medical screening and fitness certificate for applicant pilgrims and a detailed format for such screening has been sent to the states.
With a view to aid the applicants, this year the medical screening and fitness certificate by the applicant can be issued by any government allopathic medical doctor in the States/UTs. This will ease the process of getting the medical screening certificates across the country.
Further, it has been directed that states and district health authorities will also set up camps for the selected pilgrims wherein the pre-departure detailed Medical Examination and Vaccination will also be provided, the statement said.
A health card for all the pilgrims will also be issued in these camps which will examine the selected pilgrims for their present health status, the existing diseases/co-morbidities, if any.
It is planned that the health status will be made available to the medical teams in Saudi Arabia through digital means for timely health service delivery in case of any emergency.
Each state has accordingly been advised to nominate a Nodal Officer for coordinating the activities in collaboration with the State Minority Welfare Department. The Ministry of Health will procure and provide the required number of Quadrivalent Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccine (QMMV) and the Seasonal Influenza Vaccines (SIV) to the pilgrims. Health desks will also be set up at all departing airports for coordinating health needs of the pilgrims during the departure, the statement said.
With a view to plan the requirement of health infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, the Health Ministry is also sending a team of senior clinicians during the first week of April 2023, to plan for the requirement of temporary hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies and camps as needed in Mecca, Madina, Jeddah, Arafat and at the core ritual site of Mina. The team will assess the requirement of specialists, doctors and paramedical staff based on their field assessment, the statement said.
The team will examine the need for medical equipment and medicines for these health facilities and the same will be procured and made available by the Health Ministry. To ensure quality, the available medicines from Jan Aushadhi stores will be procured and provided in these facilities, the statement said.
The Health Ministry has also addressed all states and Union Territories to also obtain list of willing government medical and paramedical professionals who will be selected based on the criteria of their experience, specialization and desirable qualifications for manning these health facilities.
The selected health professionals will also be extensively oriented on the expected health needs of the pilgrims to ensure quality health service delivery, the statement said. The pilgrims will be screened for a wide range of medical issues in order to tackle any emergency effectively and quickly, which may arise during the pilgrimage.
The collaborative efforts done by Minority Affairs Ministry and the Health Ministry is expected to ensure easing the process of obtaining medical screening and fitness certificates and vaccination besides timely and quality healthcare services from point of embarkation till their return back to India, the statement said.
(Input - Shoaib Raza/PTI)
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