Pandemic fears keep pilgrims away from applying for Haj 2021; numbers drop in Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh pilgrims can board Haj flights only from Lucknow or Delhi.

The number of Haj pilgrims has fallen drastically this year given the widespread transmission of coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh and India alike. The state numbers, for Haj travel in 2021 have fallen to measly 3,2000 applications, compared to last year's 29,000. The number of checkpoints from the country to board the Haj flights has been also reduced to 10, from the usual 21. Officials have also notified that the state pilgrims can board a flight only from the state capital Lucknow or national capital Delhi, given Varanasi has cancelled its 2021 Haj flight.

Coronavirus scars pilgrimage for many

Lucknow Haj Centre

The state officials have reported a significant fall in the number of applicants applying for the Haj pilgrimage this year. The window for offline and online submission of applications for travel in 2021, opened on November 7 and had been deadlined till December 10.

Pegging the pandemic as the reason of this discouraged wave to travel, the officials also stated that not even a single woman has applied under the category of 'without meharam' (only women group), which allows three ladies to travel together. The Haj Committee of India has reserved 500 seats for such women.

COVID-19 brings troubles for Haajis

The Secretary State Haj Committee reportedly informed that the religious pilgrims have been adversely affected by the contagious spread of coronavirus. In an attempt to honour the norms of social distancing, officials are anticipating a cap on the number of haajis that will be allowed by Saudi Arabia, and by consequence, the quota of states has not been decided until now. An air of ambiguity hangs over the definitive count of pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina from Uttar Pradesh next year.

However, the Secretary State Haj Committee stated, "We want to send the maximum number of pilgrims for Haj but some things are not in our hands. We cannot comment on the quota of Uttar Pradesh because we are still awaiting directives about the numbers." He further added that the number of boarding points for Haj in Uttar Pradesh have already been reduced with no flights from Varanasi this year. State pilgrims can board Haj flights from Lucknow or Delhi.

Anticipated rise in the cost of Haj pilgrimage in 2021

Haj authorities have pointed out that only 15 pilgrims would be allowed to sit in a 45-seater bus, and the number of pilgrims in a hotel room would also be limited to two instead of six in the past, to comply with the guidelines of safe-distance travel and lodging.

Besides the reductions in the number of applications, a rise in the cost of the annual pilgrimage in 2021 has also been anticipated. The Saudi Arabian government has imposed a visa fee of 300 riyals which comes to ₹2,600 in Indian currency. As per an estimate, a pilgrim could end up paying between ₹ 3.79 lakh to ₹ 5.25 lakh on Haj this time.

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