Giving a digital push to the Haj application process, the government today launched a mobile application which will provide information and facilitate e-payments for the pilgrimage.
"It is for the first time that Haj application process is going to be digital," Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said during the launch of the event at Haj House in south Mumbai.
"This is a major initiative in the government's 'Digital India' programme," he said.
"The Ministry of Minority Affairs has joined Digital India campaign in a big way. We have made several processes regarding Haj digital/online. The Central government has been encouraging online applications for next Haj so that people can get an opportunity for the pilgrimage with complete transparency and comfort," Naqvi said.
The mobile app will be available on Google Play store from today. The next Haj schedule has already been announced and applications will be accepted from today. The last date for submitting applications is January 24.
Applying for Haj, enquiry and information, news and updates and e-payment are the main features of the app. The application can be made directly on the app. Five adults and two infants can apply as a group.
A PDF copy of the form will go to applicant's email. After affixing the photo, the printout with documents is to be sent to the state Haj committees. Registration fees can also be paid through this app.
Naqvi said that last month, a new website of Haj was launched in New Delhi. The website is in Hindi, Urdu and English languages which will provide all the necessary information regarding Haj.
The website also lists "Do's and Don'ts" for the Haj pilgrimage and also a film informing about various aspects of the pilgrimage, Naqvi said.
Last year, about 45,843 people had applied for Haj online, which was about 11 per cent of total applications received from across the nation for the pilgrimage.
"We have been making efforts to make the process of online application simple and easy so that more and more people can apply online for next Haj pilgrimage," Naqvi said.
Maharashtra was at the top place regarding online applications for Haj 2016, with a total of 10,960 people having applied online.
Altogether 9,257 online applications had been received from Kerala; 5,407 from Uttar Pradesh; 2,983 from Telangana; 2,426 from Jammu and Kashmir and 2,425 online applications had been received from Gujarat last year.
About 99,903 people went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for Haj from 21 embarkation points across India through Haj Committee of India during Haj 2016. Besides, about 36,000 pilgrims had proceeded for Haj through private tour operators.
The Central government and Haj Committee of India have already started preparations to ensure that the next Haj is completely smooth and convenient for the pilgrims, the minister said.
"We have received several important suggestions on Haj pilgrimage and we are moving forward keeping in mind these suggestions," Naqvi said.
Discussions have been held with officials of Civil Aviation Ministry to ensure aircraft with modern facilities for Haj pilgrims, he said.
(With PTI inputs)