Replying to a question raised by DMK leader T R Baalu in the Lok Sabha, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the embarkation points for the Haj pilgrimage has been reduced from 21 to 10 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic after considering the protocols prescribed by the Saudi Arabian government.
During Question Hour, Baalu protested against scrapping Chennai as the embarkation point for the Haj pilgrimage and said pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and southern Andhra Pradesh will have to travel all the way to Kochi, which has been named as an embarkation point for undertaking the pilgrimage.
"We have to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj. We have to follow the Covid protocol set by that government. We have done this keeping in mind the Covid protocol, Naqvi said.
Also, "The Ministry has not received request from the state Government of Tamil Nadu to include Chennai Airport as an Embarkation Point. However, a reference has been received from S Venkatesan, MP, Lok Sabha, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, on the issue and the same has been suitably replied to, he added.
Naqvi said a Haj Review Meeting was held in the Minority Affairs Ministry on October 22 with the Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia, Consul General in Jeddah, officials from the External Affairs, Civil Aviation and Health Ministries and representatives from airlines.
"The arrangements and guidelines for Haj 2022 have been made under special circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The minister said the provisions and restrictions included reduction in the number of embarkation points to 10 major airports Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Srinagar.