NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia has increased India’s annual Hajj quota from 1.36 lakh to 1.70 lakh, reportedly the biggest such expansion in last 29 years, according to the Indian media.
The Times of India reported that an agreement to this regard was inked by Minister of State for Minority Affairs (independent charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi with Saudi minister Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten in Jeddah on Wednesday, making the expansion effective from the current year.
The Saudi authorities had five years ago slashed quotas for foreign pilgrims coming from each country by 20 per cent in view of safety of the devotees as they undertook expansion of Grand Mosque there.
Accordingly, India’s quota was brought down to 1.36 lakh from nearly 1.70 lakh in 2012.
Expressing pleasure at signing of the agreement, Naqvi said his meeting with Benten was “very fruitful” as constructive discussion was held on the whole gamut of issues related to the pilgrimage, transport and accommodation facilities for pilgrims and their safety.
“On behalf of the people and Government of India, we also extend gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Excellency Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, for his keen personal interest and initiative in organising a successful Haj 2016,” Naqvi said in a statement.