New Delhi: Preparations for the Haj pilgrimage are on fast track and nearly 80,000 accommodations have already been secured, the government said Thursday.
"A senior level officer of the external affairs ministry is in Saudi Arabia to look after the preparations," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna informed the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.
The minister said nearly 160,000 pilgrims will go for Haj this year.
Refuting allegations from some opposition members that the subsidy given for Haj is utilised only for recovering the deficit of Air India in taking the pilgrims, the minister said a process of competitive bidding has been adopted this year.
"Saudi airlines will also carry the pilgrims," Krishna said.
The minister added that over three lakh applications were received and the quota for the pilgrimage was decided on the basis of population of Muslims in every state.
Earlier, replying to another question, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said the process for allotting passports to the Haj pilgrims was on fast track and a special Haj committee and nodal officer have been appointed to oversee the process.