India is set to send the largest contingent of women pilgrims traveling without a male companion (known as Ladies without Mehram) for Haj this year, according to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
The ministry has approved the applications of 4,314 LWMs out of a total of 1.84 lakh online applications received for Haj in 2023. The ministry officials have stated that they have made dedicated efforts to make the process of pilgrim selection “objective, transparent, efficient, timely and without human involvement” by finalizing the applications through an Online Randomised Digital Selection process.
All the 1.4 lakh applicants who had been selected for Haj were informed via SMS, and the list of selected and wait-listed applicants has been published on the official portal immediately after the selection process for transparency.
The ministry has partnered with the State Bank of India (SBI) to make special arrangements to provide forex facilities to the pilgrims. Unlike earlier years, when each pilgrim was made available 2,100 Riyals by the Haj Committee of India, the Haj Policy 2023 gives the option and flexibility to the pilgrims to arrange their foreign currency or take lesser foreign exchange, as per their requirements.
The facility of a ‘FOREX Card’ is being provided to all the pilgrims, thereby eliminating the possibility of theft or loss of physical currency. In case this card is lost during the pilgrimage, the person can get the money refunded from the bank. SBI will also set up a dedicated helpline for Haj pilgrims and facilitate the provision of mandatory insurance for the pilgrims.
States and district health authorities will set up camps for the pilgrims for pre-departure medical examination and vaccination. A health card for all the pilgrims will also be issued in these camps, which will examine their present health status and existing diseases. 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.