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Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Thursday announced that the last date for submission of application forms for Haj 2021 has been extended to 10 January.

The embarkation point-wise estimated cost per pilgrim has also been reduced, as per a statement issued by the Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's office.

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In view of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the entire process is being followed according to the guidelines issued by the governments of Saudi Arabia and India, Naqvi said, adding that the Haj is scheduled for June-July 202.

"Today, December 10, was the last date for submission of application forms for Haj 2021, and now it has been extended to January 10, 2021," the statement said quoting Naqvi after he chaired a meeting of the Haj Committee of India here.

A few days back, a senior member of the West Bengal State Haj Committee said that the number of Haj pilgrims from the state will be halved next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the cost of the Haj pilgrimage next year will also rise due to the Covid-19 safety protocols.

Over 40,000 applications received

For Haj 2021, more than 40,000 applications have been received so far. These include more than 500 applications under the category of women (desirous of travelling) without 'Mehram' (male companion), the statement said.

For the Haj 2020, more than 2,100 women had applied under without 'Mehram' category. These women will go for Haj 2021 as their applications remain valid, it said.

Besides, new forms are also being accepted from women who want to perform Haj 2021 without 'Mehram', it said.

All women willing to travel under this category will be exempted from the lottery system, the statement said.

People have been applying online, offline and through the Haj mobile application, it said.

Naqvi said after discussions and feedback received from Saudi Arabia, the embarkation points-wise estimated cost per Haj pilgrim has been reduced.

"The estimated cost per pilgrim after reduction is approximately 3,30,000 for Ahmedabad and Mumbai embarkation points, 3,50,000 for Bengaluru, Lucknow, Delhi and Hyderabad, 3,60,000 for Cochin and Srinagar, 3,70,000 for Kolkata and 4 lakh for Guwahati embarkation point," he said.

Naqvi said the national-international protocol guidelines in view of the pandemic situation will be implemented and followed "strictly" during the Haj 2021.

Arrangements for the annual pilgrimage have been made under special circumstances in accordance with special norms, rules, eligibility criteria, age restrictions, health and fitness requirements and other relevant conditions of the Saudi Arabia government amid the pandemic, the minister said.

"There may be changes in the age criteria for performing Haj due to the pandemic. Each pilgrim will have to undergo COVID-19 test 72 hours before the journey as per the prevailing international air travel protocol," he said.

Pilgrims will have to submit their test certificates issued by an approved laboratory with a negative result before travelling to Saudi Arabia, he added.

Naqvi further said considering the pandemic situation and feedback received from Air India and other agencies, the embarkation points for Haj 2021 have been reduced to 10.

Previously, there were 21 Haj embarkation points across India.

For Haj next year, the 10 embarkation points are -- Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Srinagar.

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