KSA To Allow ‘Very Limited’ Pilgrims For Haj 2020, Full Refund For 2.3 Lakh Indian Applicants
GUWAHATI: For the first time in modern history, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will only allow around 1,000 pilgrims residing inside the country to perform Haj this year to curb the virus from spreading in the Gulf, according to Haj Minister Mohammad Benten.
The pilgrimage, however, will be open to people of various nationalities already in the kingdom. The move will not only help in performing of the ritual following norms of social distancing but will also ensure that no foreign national enter the country for pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage will be limited to those under the age of 65 without chronic illnesses as per the Kingdom’s Health Ministry. Pilgrims will also be tested for Coronavirus before arriving at the Holy City of Mecca and will have to quarantine themselves at home post the ritual. No directives have been issued yet on the process of selecting people who will be allowed to perform Haj by Saudi authorities.
This decision came after Saudi Arabia saw a major spike in COVID-19 infections, which have now risen to more than 161,000 cases, making the country the worst affected in the Gulf.
The move to scale back the five-day annual event is fraught with political and economic troubles, especially after several Muslim countries pulled out of the ritual that forms one of the main pillars of Islam.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also said that Indian pilgrims will not go to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage this year amid risks over the novel Coronavirus. His comment came a day after Saudi authorities made the announcement of limiting number of pilgrims for Haj this year.
“We have decided that Haj pilgrims from India will not be sent to Saudi Arabia for Haj 2020. Application money of more than 2.3 lakh pilgrims will be returned without cancellation deductions through direct transfer,” Naqvi tweeted.
Even before Saudi Arabia’s decision to bar entry for foreign pilgrims, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the first countries to bar their respective citizens from travelling to Saudi Arabia for the five-day pilgrimage, citing fears of the novel Coronavirus disease.
Earlier, the Haj Committee of India, a statutory body under the Ministry of Minority Affairs, had informed of temporarily halting preparations for Haj 2020 with reference to communication received from Saudi Haj authorities and announced full refund for be pilgrims in case the pilgrimage does not take place.
To know more about the same, G Plus got in touch with Abul Laice Choudhury, Executive Officer, Joint State Haj Committee, Assam.
“As per Haj Committee of India’s earlier notice, pilgrims here will get a refund and the official spokesperson here will shortly address a presser to make official announcements,” he said.
“Those foreign nationals residing within the Kingdom, however, will be allowed to attend the ritual conditionally; only 20 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia comprises of Saudi national and the rest are from other countries,” he added.
The kingdom had earlier halted international passenger flights in March post which Muslims across the globe had to put their Haj plans on hold. International arrivals for Umrah pilgrimages are also suspended.
Each year the annual pilgrimage draws over 2 million Muslims from around the world for five intense days of worship in the Holy City of Mecca.
- Haj 2020
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Haj Committee of India