Hajj 2016
A Muslim Hajj pilgrim holds a copy of the Koran.Reuters

Saudi Arabia has raised the annual Hajj quota for Indian pilgrims from 1.36 lakh to 1.70 lakh. This marks the biggest such expansion in quota for Indians in the last 29 years, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Thursday said.

India launches website for 2017 online registration — and it is in four languages

An agreement to increase India's annual Haj quota was signed by Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Naqvi with Saudi Arabia's Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten at Jeddah on Monday.

Reports state that the expansion will be effective from this year. Saudi Arabia had decreased the annual Hajj quotas for foreign nationals by 20 percent five years ago, considering the safety of the pilgrims, as construction ensued to expand the Grand Mosque in the country. The slash had brought India's quota down from 1.70 lakh in 2012 to 1.36 lakh.

Naqvi said that his meeting with Benten was "very fruitful" and that they discussed a whole array of issues pertaining to Indian pilgrims including their transport, safety and accommodation facilities, PTI reported.

"On behalf of the people and Government of India, we also extend gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Excellency Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, for his keen personal interest and initiative in organising a successful Hajj 2016," Naqvi in a statement said.

The Union minister also said that he was confident that under Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud leadership, the relationship between India and Saudi Arabia will be strengthened further.

"The regular visits by the leaders and senior-level officials of the two nations have further strengthened the relationship between the two nations. The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia during April last year added new dimensions to our vibrant relationship," he added.

The registration for Hajj applications in India has begun and the last date for the submissions of the application is January 24. The Ministry of Minority Affairs also launched an Android app for digital registration for Hajj 2017 and the app is currently available on Google Play Store. The move came days after the ministry launched a website in four languages – English, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic.