India to Refund Hajj Pilgrimage Money as Saudi Bars Int’l Pilgrims
An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering.
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that India will not send any pilgrims to the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage this year, following Saudi Arabia banning visitors from abroad to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We have decided that Hajj pilgrims from India will not be sent to Saudi Arabia for Hajj 2020. Application money of more than 2.3 lakh pilgrims will be returned without cancellation deductions through direct transfer,” Naqvi was quoted by ANI as saying.
Saudi Arabia will allow people of different nationalities already living in the kingdom to take part in the pilgrimage that begins in July.
The move comes to control the spread of COVID-19 as global numbers keep rising at a record high rate.
“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers ... with different nationalities in the kingdom,” Al Jazeera quoted the official Saudi Press Agency as saying on Monday, 22 June.
An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering, the BBC reported.
There had been fears the Hajj might be cancelled altogether.
The pilgrimage is one of the most significant moments in the Muslim religious calendar. But only citizens from countries around the world who are already residing in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to attend this year, reported news agency IANS.
The authorities said this is the only way they will be able to make plans for social distancing to keep people safe.
Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, emerged as one of the first countries to withdraw from the pilgrimage according to Al Jazeera. Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.
Saudi Arabia so far has has recorded 1,61,005 cases of infection and 1,307 deaths.
(With inputs from ANI, Al Jazeera and IANS.)
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