Srinagar- Jammu and Kashmir is set to see a dip in the number of pilgrims undertaking the journey as at least 2000 Hajj aspirants have become non-eligible for this year’s holy pilgrimage due to age-bar set by the Saudi regime.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah—Makah Saturday announced that one million pilgrims both foreign and domestic, will perform Hajj this year. The ministry, however, said that this year’s Hajj is open to those who are under 65 years of age and have received the main Covid-19 vaccinations approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
State Executive Hajj Officer Dr Abdul Salaam Mir said that almost 12000 applications were received by the Hajj office J&K this year.
“Now that the Saudi government has set an age-limit of below 65-years, some 2000 pilgrims won’t be eligible for the Hajj this year,” he said. “We have almost 2000 applications from the pilgrims who are above 65 years.”
He said that most probably the remaining 10,000 pilgrims may all become entitled for the Hajj 2022 depending on the final quota distribution by the Government of India. “Things will become clearer within a couple of days,” Dr Mir said.
He said from this end, all the preparations have been made and now that the announcement has been made for Hajj 2022, they will speed up the further process that includes submitting money, passport and other relevant documents.
J&K Hajj aspirants were in a fix as the Saudi government had been delaying the quota announcement. Hajj 2022 will take place after two years (2020, 2021) as it remained suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Upbeat over the announcement, Ghulam Qadir Rather, 63, a Hajj aspirant said that he was feeling relieved over the Saudi government’s decision of allowing the Hajj this year.
“The J&K government should made clear whether it will allow all the aspirants aged up to 65 or go for draws,” he told a local news agency KNO.
One Million Pilgrims To Perform Hajj This Year
Earlier reports said Saudi Arabia will allow one million pilgrims to perform Hajj this year after reducing numbers in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said “one million pilgrims, both foreign and domestic” would be able to take part in the annual pilgrimage.
Pilgrims should be less than 65 years of age and must be fully immunised against Covid-19 with a vaccine approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health, the ministry said in a statement released by state news agency SPA on Saturday.
Pilgrims arriving from abroad must submit a negative PCR test for Covid-19, using a sample taken within 72 hours before departure to Saudi Arabia, the ministry said.
Saudi authorities allowed only 1,000 pilgrims from within the kingdom to participate in the Hajj in 2020. The number was raised to 60,000 last year, with participants chosen through a lottery for fully vaccinated citizens and residents.
The quota for this year’s pilgrimage, which will take place over five days in June, is less than half of the 2.5 million people who performed Hajj in 2019. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in their lives by able-bodied Muslims.
The increase in this year’s attendance comes amid an easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the kingdom. In March it suspended “social distancing measures in all open and closed places” including mosques, while masks are now only required in closed spaces.
Saudi Arabia has so far registered more than 751,000 coronavirus cases, including 9,055 deaths, according to Health Ministry data. It said in its daily update on April 6 that there had been no deaths from Covid-19 for the first time in two years.
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