4,314 Indian women set to perform Haj without 'Mehram' this year

The number is the highest since 2018, when the requirement for a male companion was done away with for women going on the pilgrimage


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Published: Wed 29 Mar 2023, 9:59 PM

As many as 4,314 Indian women are set to perform Haj without 'Mehram (male companion)' this year, the largest since the reform in 2018, which did away with the compulsion of a male companion with women on the pilgrimage, officials said.

In a first, India's Minority Affairs Ministry has also made comprehensive arrangements for the health of the Haj pilgrims, with health desks at airports and medical screening by government doctors.

With a view to ensure quality health support to pilgrims, the ministry is collaborating with India's Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for comprehensive health arrangements for pilgrims planning to visit Mecca.

Each year, Saudi Arabia hosts around 2.5- 3 million pilgrims from across the globe to visit Mecca — and India sends the third largest contingent of pilgrims in the world.

Such large number of pilgrims also poses unique public health challenges, and the medical requirements of the pilgrims in Makkah, Madina and Jeddah must be well-cared for, a statement issued by the ministry said. For this year, a quota of 175,025 pilgrims has been allotted to India. The first flight for the pilgrimage from India will depart on May 21.

With a view to ensure comprehensive and quality services to the pilgrims, Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani and Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya have undertaken a series of meetings accompanied by officials from both ministries.

In the last three months, more than 10 meetings have been organised on the subject between both the ministries and a detailed plan of action has been finalised, the statement said.

The Health Ministry, accordingly, has issued directions to all states on March 21, wherein they have been advised to provide for medical screenings and fitness certificates for applicant pilgrims and a detailed format for such screenings has been sent to the states.

With a view to aid the applicants, this year the medical screening and fitness certificate by an applicant can be issued by any government allopathic medical doctor in the States or union territories. This will ease the process of getting the medical screening certificates across the country.

Further, it has been directed that states and district health authorities will also set up camps for the selected pilgrims wherein the pre-departure detailed medical examination and vaccination will also be provided, the statement said.

A health card for all the pilgrims will also be issued in these camps which will examine the selected pilgrims for their present health status, the existing diseases/co-morbidities, if any. It is planned that 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.

The Ministry of Health will procure and provide the required number of Quadrivalent Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccine (QMMV) and the Seasonal Influenza Vaccines (SIV) to the pilgrims.

Health desks will also be set up at all departing airports for coordinating health needs of the pilgrims during the departure, the statement said.

With a view to plan the requirement of health infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, India's health ministry is also sending a team of senior clinicians to the Kingdom during the first week of April 2023, to plan for the requirement of temporary hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies and camps as needed in Makkah, Madina, Jeddah, Arafat and at the core ritual site of Mina.

The pilgrims will be screened for a wide range of medical issues in order to tackle any emergency effectively and quickly, which may arise during the pilgrimage.


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