Government Implements ‘Cashless Hajj’ Scheme for 1.4 Lakh Pilgrims
The Indian government has taken a step towards a ‘Cashless Hajj’ this year, providing pilgrims with a card by the State Bank of India (SBI) for the use of foreign currency. The move comes as part of an effort to make the process more convenient for the estimated 1.4 lakh Hajj pilgrims who will make the trip this year.
New Scheme Replaces Earlier System
Under the earlier system, Hajj pilgrims had to deposit 2,100 Saudi Riyals (about Rs 45,000) with the Haj Committee of India, which was then made available to them for spending in Mecca and Medina of Saudi Arabia. However, the Hajj Policy 2023 provides the option for pilgrims to arrange their own foreign currency or take a lesser amount of foreign exchange, depending on their requirements.
Selection Process Carried Out Online
The process of applying for Hajj and selecting pilgrims was carried out online, with 1.84 lakh applicants. Out of these, 14,935 have been given assured allotment, including 10,621 in the 70-plus category and 4,314 women who will perform the Hajj without a “Mahram” (male companion). The ministry has finalised applications received over and above the Hajj quota through an online randomised digital selection (ORDS) process, without any human intervention.
Increased Transparency for Pilgrim Selection
For the first time, the list of selected and waitlisted applicants was published on the official portal immediately after the selection process to increase transparency. All 1.4 lakh selected pilgrims have received a text message informing them of their selection for Hajj 2023. A text message has also been sent to the waitlisted applicants, informing them about their position on the list.
SBI to Provide Forex and Insurance to pilgrims
The ministry has partnered with the SBI to provide foreign exchange to the pilgrims. The bank will facilitate foreign exchange and mandatory insurance to all pilgrims through their 22,000 branches across the country. The SBI will also set up stalls at all the embarkation points with dedicated nodal officers to help the pilgrims collect foreign exchange in cash or through the forex card and provide any guidance and assistance as required.
Facility of Forex Card for Pilgrims of Cashless Hajj
In addition to providing foreign exchange, the facility of a forex card is also being provided to the pilgrims to eliminate the possibility of theft or loss of physical currency. In case the card is lost during the pilgrimage, the pilgrim can get their money refunded from the bank.
Helpline for Assistance
A helpline shall be operated by the SBI, and the contact details of the nodal officers will be made public soon, according to the ministry statement.
FAQs Related To Cashless Hajj
- What is the “Cashless Hajj” scheme?
- The “Cashless Hajj” scheme is an initiative by the government of India to provide a cashless option for Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. Under this scheme, Hajj pilgrims will be provided with a card by the State Bank of India (SBI) for the use of foreign currency, eliminating the need for physical currency exchange.
- How does the “Cashless Hajj” scheme work ?
- Under the previous system, Hajj pilgrims had to deposit 2,100 Saudi Riyals (about Rs 45 thousand) with the Haj Committee of India, which used to be made available to them for spending in Mecca and Medina of Saudi Arabia. However, under the new scheme, the pilgrims have the option to arrange their own foreign currency or take a lesser amount of foreign exchange, according to their requirements. The SBI will facilitate providing foreign exchange and mandatory insurance to all the pilgrims to meet their requirements during their stay in Saudi Arabia.
- What are the benefits of the “Cashless Hajj” scheme?
- The “Cashless Hajj” scheme aims to make the pilgrimage more convenient for the pilgrims by eliminating the need for physical currency exchange. The use of a forex card also reduces the possibility of theft or loss of physical currency. Additionally, the scheme promotes transparency, as the list of selected and waitlisted applicants was published on the official portal immediately after the selection process.
- How many Hajj pilgrims will be covered under this scheme?
- The government has decided to implement the “Cashless Hajj” scheme for 1.4 lakh Hajj pilgrims this year. The ministry has partnered with the SBI to make special arrangements to provide foreign exchange to the pilgrims.