There are a total of 21 Haj embarkation points (EPs) in the country - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Cochin, Indore, Srinagar, Bhopal, Guwahati, Mangaluru, Aurangabad, Varanasi, Jaipur, Nagpur, Ranchi, Gaya, Ahmedabad and Goa.
Haj aspirants - for whom the 10 airports of Srinagar, Guwahati, Ranchi, Gaya, Indore, Bhopal, Mangaluru, Goa, Aurangabad and Varanasi are the nearest EPs - will now get additional economical option to fly from.
Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the option is being made available for the first time.
The pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir, whose nearest EP is Srinagar, can opt to travel from Delhi now, helping them save on (per head) airfare. In 2017, the airfare for the pilgrimage from Srinagar was Rs1,09,692 as against Rs73,697 from Delhi. The airfare for Haj 2018 may vary.
Similarly, aspirants whose basic EPs are Guwahati, Ranchi and Gaya will have an alternative of undertaking the journey from Kolkata. Those having Indore, Bhopal, Goa and Aurangabad as the nearest airports, can opt for flying from Mumbai.
Those with Varanasi as the basic airport can choose Lucknow as their optional embarkation point while those with Mangaluru as their EP will have the option of Bengaluru.
Embarkation point once selected cannot be changed later on as tendering will be done accordingly.
"For the first time, we will give an option of an additional embarkation point...It will depend on the aspirants now from where they want to travel," Naqvi said, adding the move will help save money.
A high-level committee formed by his ministry to frame draft Haj Policy 2018-2022 had proposed to bring down the number of EPs from present 21 to 9.
Naqvi, however, stressed the number of EPs will not be reduced.
Airfare from Jaipur, Nagpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Cochin, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Lucknow is already on the lower side compared to the other 10 EPs.
"Therefore those having Jaipur, Nagpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Cochin, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Lucknow as their basic EPs need not have additional option," a source in the ministry said.
The embarkation point shall also be the disembarkation point on the return journey, the source said.
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