New Delhi: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on Monday announced a slew of measures for Haj pilgrims, including allowing a companion for those above 70 years of age, easier passport clearances and automatic inclusion of those applicants in the list who have been applying for three years.
Delivering his inaugural address at the annual Haj conference here, Krishna said, "As part of our efforts to continuously improve Haj management, it has been decided to allocate confirmed seats to all the intending pilgrims over 70
years of age along with a companion, with effect from this year."
The minister said the decision taken last year to allow those Haj pilgrims who have applied unsuccessfully for three consecutive years to be automatically given a seat without having to participate in the draw of lots or Qurrah has already been implemented.
An additional Haj quota has also been sought from the Saudi Arabia government to accommodate the significant increase in the number of intending pilgrims.
"During my visit to Jeddah for the conclusion of the Bilateral Haj Agreement with the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 26, 2011, I personally handed over the request for additional seats to the Saudi Minister for Haj,"
The External Affairs Ministry has also decided to facilitate issuing of passports to Haj pilgrims.
"I am pleased to inform you that the Government has decided to give all the pilgrims selected by the Haj Committee of India passports with validity of eight months without police verification. Regional Passport offices have been
advised to hold special passport adalats for the purpose," Krishna said.