by Syed Shadab Ali Gillani
SRINAGAR: The announcement of a fare spike ahead of the Hajj-2023 pilgrimage has caused disappointment among many Jammu and Kashmir Makkah-bound pilgrims.
Safina Baig, the Jammu and Kashmir Hajj committee chairperson explained that the main reason behind the increase in Hajj fee is the rising airfare, particularly on flights from Srinagar to Delhi are currently very expensive.
Baig took to Twitter to appeal to Prime Minister Modi to take action and reduce the exorbitant airfares from Kashmir for the Hajj pilgrimage, stating that the charges for Hajj candidates in Jammu and Kashmir have always been exorbitant.
In a recent meeting with LG Manoj Sinha, Baig emphasized the need for the government to take immediate steps to address the situation and make the Hajj pilgrimage more accessible to Kashmiri pilgrims.
Had a productive meeting with the honorable LG @manojsinha_ Ji where we discussed the issue of high airfare for Kashmiri Haj pilgrims. I am grateful for his patient listening & assurance to resolve this pressing issue. Looking forward to positive developments @OfficeOfLGJandK pic.twitter.com/HSZd5ud4N7
— Safina Baig (@SafinaMBaig) May 12, 2023
Baig further emphasized that the government needs to bring the airfares for Kashmiri pilgrims at par with those of other states, as the exorbitant costs were making it impossible for many devotees to attend the sacred journey. She tweeted the airfare difference between Bangalore and Srinagar is Rs 91000, Delhi and Srinagar is Rs 50000, Hyderabad and Srinagar is Rs 90,000, Mumbai and Srinagar is Rs 90000, and this clearly gives rise to apprehensions among masses in Kashmir that needs to be tackled immediately.
The set price for Hajj-2023 is Rs 10,000 more than the fixed price for Hajj-2022. The amount remitted by pilgrims during Hajj-2022 was Rs 3.85 lakh, whereas pilgrims are expected to pay Rs 3.95 lakh for Hajj-2023. However, in February 2023, the government said the Hajj-2023 would be cheaper by Rs 80,000, with each pilgrim paying a maximum of Rs 350,000 to 3,70,000 for the pilgrimage.
As per the Hajj committee of India, 5,652 people are selected for Hajj 2023 from Jammu and Kashmir, including 132 women from Kashmir who will be participating in Hajj without a Mehram this year.
Senior CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami also took to Twitter to denounce the increase in airfare prices, stating that airlines are arbitrarily raising fares, leaving travellers in distress and even Hajj pilgrims are being forced to pay more. The tentative Haj amount payable by pilgrims at the Srinagar Embarkation Point (EP) is Rs 50,000 higher than that for pilgrims embarking from Delhi EP.
The Jammu and Kashmir Hajj Committee is now urging the Prime Minister to intervene and take immediate steps to address the situation and make the Hajj pilgrimage more accessible to Kashmiri pilgrims. It remains to be seen what actions the government will take to address this issue and ensure that all pilgrims can participate in the sacred journey.
Meanwhile, officials said the pilgrims for the Hajj-2023 from Jammu and Kashmir would start leaving for Saudi Arabia from the first week of June 2023.
Pertinently, around 10, 000 people from Jammu and Kashmir are going to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj this year, as per the draw of lots held in the month of March 2023.
Officials said the Committee received a total of 14271 applications had been received for Hajj-2023. The highlight is that apart from 132 women who will proceed on Hajj without Mehram, 1320 people who are above 70 years of age will also go to Hajj under Reserved Category.