New Delhi, Sep 19: Indian Haj pilgrims have to shell out an additional Rs.20,000 this year on the pilgrimage, on account of the steep depreciation of the Indian rupee and high accommodation and travel costs, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
Khurshid, speaking at an interaction with media people working in the Urdu media in the national capital, said Thursday that each pilgrim this year has paid Rs.2 lakh for the pilgrimage conducted by the Haj Committee of India. Last year, pilgrims paid Rs.180,000.
The minister added, however, that those making the pilgrimage through private tour operators pay in the range of Rs.250,000. The air fare alone has increased by Rs.8,000 this year, the minister said.
Khursid said over 3,600 people wishing to undertake the pilgrimage opted out on account of the high cost and other reasons, and their seats would be allotted to applicants earlier wait-listed.
The minister said that since a reduction has been effected by authorities in Saudi Arabia on the quota of pilgrims from India, only 136,000 Indians will perform the pilgrimage this year.
The quota allotted to private tour operators has been cut by 30,000 to accommodate all pilgrims going through the Haj Committee of India.
The minister also said that the Haj subsidy offered by the government of India had been reduced by Rs.150 crore this year. It was Rs.800 crore last year.
The subsidy would be gradually phased out, the minister said, in accordance with a May 2012 ruling of the Supreme Court to gradually do away with the subsidy over a period of 10 years.
Khurshid said more than 38,000 pilgrims from India have already reached Saudi Arabia, and most of them are now in Medina.
Pilgrims are being airlifted from 21 embarkation points in the country.
Khurshid said the discretionary quota in the pilgrimage has been reduced to a mere 300, from the earlier 5,000.