SRINAGAR — A considerable drop in applications for the Haj pilgrimage in 2024 has been attributed to the escalating costs, with only 7000 applications received against the expected quota of 11500 by the J&K Haj Committee.
In a stark contrast, last year witnessed a robust 14200 applications, of which 12067 pilgrims successfully embarked on the sacred journey.
Sources revealed that many potential pilgrims are turning to the more economical Umrah pilgrimage due to the rising expenses associated with Haj. “The overarching factor contributing to this decline is the inflation affecting the overall affordability of the pilgrimage,” an aspiring pilgrim told the news agency KNS.
In a bid to address the financial challenges faced by prospective pilgrims, authorities are advising applicants to consider opting for embarkation from Delhi and Mumbai, as these locations are expected to be less expensive compared to the Srinagar embarkation point.
To further ease the burden on applicants, authorities have made the application process free of cost since last year. “The initiative aims to support pilgrims who may later cancel their pilgrimage due to unforeseen reasons and those who are not selected through the qurra (lottery system),” sources said.
Pertinently in 2015, 2016, and 2017, a significant number of applicants (25000 to 30000) submitted their applications for Haj, but only around 11000 performed the pilgrimage. This trend underscores the need for measures to ensure a more accurate representation of committed pilgrims and reduce the strain on both applicants and the pilgrimage process.
An official of the J&K Hajj Committee said that 441 applications have been received under the reserved category for 70+ age group applicants while applications from 44 ladies have also been received who wish to embark on the holy journey with Mehram.
As per official sources, the application window is open until January 15, 2024, and can be reached at www.hajcommittee.org, for which authorities are hopeful that the combination of free applications and alternative embarkation points will encourage a surge in interest, fostering a more inclusive participation in the sacred obligation of Haj.