Hyderabad: The online application process for the Haj pilgrimage in 2021 opened on Saturday. Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, made a formal statement announcing the notification. The last date of applying is 10 December 2020 and applications can be obtained both offline and online, including through the Haj Mobile App. Haj 2021 is scheduled for June-July 2021, and the entire process will be held according to the guidelines by the Saudi Arabia Government and the Government of India in view of Coronavirus pandemic to ensure the health and well-being of the people in both countries.

"The national and international guidelines to safeguard devotees from the virus will be implemented and followed strictly during Haj 2021," said Naqvi.

Significant changes have been made to the procedures for Haj 2021 keeping ongoing pandemic in mind. "The arrangements for Haj 2021 have been made under special circumstances keeping in mind special norms, rules and regulations, eligibility criteria, age restrictions, health and fitness requirements and other relevant conditions of the Saudi Arabia Government," said Naqvi.

Changes were also applied to accommodation, period of stay of pilgrims, transportation, health and other facilities in both countries. There might some restrictions on the age criteria for performing Haj. Each pilgrim will have to undergo a test for COVID-19 72 hours before Haj journey as per prevailing international air travel protocol. Each pilgrim will have to submit a PCR test certificate issued by an approved laboratory with a negative result before his/her journey.

Keeping in view the pandemic and the feedback received from Air India and other agencies, embarkation points for Haj 2021 have been reduced to 10. Earlier, there were 21 Haj embarkation points across the country. For Haj 2021, the 10 embarkation points are Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Srinagar.

The application filled for Haj 2020 by women without a "Mehram" (male companion) continues to be valid for Haj 2021, and they will be exempted from the lottery system.

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