The Ministry of Minority Affairs, currently chaired by Smriti Irani, has officially announced its partnership with the State Bank of India (SBI). The objective is to issue Forex Cards to select Haj pilgrims. The revised policy gives flexibility to cardholders in having the currency based on their individual requirements. The earlier version of the policy would grant 2100 Riyals irrespective of how much the requirement was.
Forex Cards will be provided to pilgrims at over 22,000 SBI branches across India. It will be coupled with mandatory insurance to meet all the requirements of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Forex Card, issued by SBI in partnership with the Central Government, mitigates the risk of losing the currency. In a situation where pilgrims lose the Forex Card, they can seek a refund of their money from the bank by getting in touch with the relevant branch.
SBI has said that it will have stalls at Embarkation points with officers of the relevant level to address the queries and facilitate the collection of the card.
The major objective is to make the Haj process convenient, inexpensive, and comfortable for pilgrims. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has upgraded the complete selection procedure in addition to the Forex Card. The selections were made using the Online Randomized Digital Selection process for the first time. Of the 1.84 lakh applications received, 14,935 have been assured allotment.
With the milestone reaching 4,314, Haj Pilgrim 2023 also records the highest number in Ladies Without Mehram. The remaining 10,621 are reserved for pilgrims who are 70 years of age or older.
The selection process was concluded without any human intervention. An SMS was sent informing applicants about their status: confirmed or on the waiting list. Also, a list of selected applicants is live on the public portal for increased transparency. SBI will use the same SMS service to connect with the pilgrim for the issuance of a Forex Card at the most competitive rates.