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After 22 years, India mulling resuming sea route option for Haj

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Haj via Sea Route

Mumbai, April 14 : Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday said the Centre is “actively considering” a plan to resume — after 22 years — the use of the Arabian Sea route to ferry Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and consultations with the Shipping Ministry are already on.

He said the “revolutionary and pilgrim-friendly decision” of sea travel will cut down travel expenses by nearly half compared with air fares. The use of the sea route between Mumbai and Jeddah for Haj was discontinued in 1995.

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“A high-level committee, formed by the government to frame the Haj Policy 2018 as per the Supreme Court’s 2012 order, is exploring the issue for sending pilgrims via the sea route to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,” the Minister of State for Minority Affairs said at a training programme at the Haj House here.

The committee will soon submit its report to the government.

At present, Haj pilgrims travel by air from 21 points across the country.

The minister said another advantage was that ships nowadays are modern and well equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at one go.

“They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles between Mumbai and Jeddah in just two-three days. Earlier, ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance,” he said.

He said the new Haj policy is aimed at making the entire pilgrimage process easier and transparent. Facilities for pilgrims will be the focus of the new policy.

In 2016, as many as 99,903 pilgrims went to Jeddah for Haj through the Haj Committee of India, besides nearly 36,000 persons who went through private tour operators.

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In 2017, a total of 1,70,025 persons will go for Haj from India, including 1,25,025 through the Haj Committee and 45,000 others through private operators.

This year, he said, 129,196 applications were received online.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs along with other agencies has started preparations for the biggest annual pilgrimage very early in coordination with various agencies, he added. The aim is to provide world class facilities to Haj pilgrims.

With an increase of 34,005 in India’s annual Haj quota by host country Saudi Arabia, announced last year, all Indian states will benefit for this year’s pilgrimage, Naqvi said.

“The decision was taken during the signing of a bilateral annual Haj agreement between the two countries at Jeddah on January 11. It is the biggest increase in the Haj quota for India after many years,” the Minister said.

More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the three-day training programme that deals with various dos and don’ts to be adhered to during the pilgrimage. They are enlightened about transport, accommodation and laws in Saudi Arabia, among other things.

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Officials from the Haj Committee of India, Saudi Arabia Consulate, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines, Air India, customs and immigration departments and doctors are involved in the endeavour.

These trainers will further train prospective pilgrims at different camps across the country.

Cities

UP To Test Every Traveller From Delhi For Coronavirus

It seems the second Covid-19 has hit the national capital, he said, pointing to a spurt in cases there.

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COVID-19 antibody testing

The Uttar Pradesh government will test all travellers from Delhi for coronavirus, an official said on Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said the state government is also considering restrictions on the number of people at weddings and other social programmes.

Tiwari said infection cases have increased in UP districts bordering Delhi.

It seems the second Covid-19 has hit the national capital, he said, pointing to a spurt in cases there.

So, we are testing everyone coming from Delhi, be it by air, train or bus, he said.

When asked about the kind of curbs that may be imposed at social gatherings, Tiwari said the decision will be taken on the prevailing situation.

“Districts in western UP like Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad have restricted social gatherings to 100. Necessary steps will be taken as per the prevailing situation in various places to stop the spread of the infection,” he said.

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Travel

US CDC advises against cruise ship travel

The advisory comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US has topped the 12 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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Washington: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an advisory against cruise ship travels as Covid-19 transmission risk on liners is very high.

“For most travellers, cruise ship travel is voluntary and should be rescheduled for a future date,” Xinhua news agency quoted the CDC as saying in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.

The agency raised its warning to Level 4 from Level 3, citing “very high” Covid-19 risk on cruise ships.

It also advised liner passengers to get tested three to four days after the travel and stay at home for seven days even with negative test results.

In March, the CDC issued a no-sail order in response to the pandemic.

Last month, the agency came up with a framework for a phased resumption of liner operations.

Every ship must be certified by the CDC before travelers can board.

According to the CDC, from March 1 to September 28, there were “a total of 3,689 confirmed cases or Covid-like illness cases on cruise ships and 412 deaths”.

The advisory comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US has topped the 12 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Sunday, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the country’s current caseload and death toll stood at 12,079,296 and 255,804, respectively.

By far, the US remains the nation worst hit by the pandemic, with the world’s most cases and deaths, making up more than 20 per cent of the global caseload.

US Covid-19 cases hit 10 million on November 9, and increased by 1 million within a week.

Starting from November 3, the number of daily cases have been surging above the threshold of 100,000, which has never been seen in past months.

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India

Delhi Airport becomes first airport in Asia-Pacific to reach Level 4+ Transition

Delhi Airport becomes first airport in Asia-Pacific to reach Level 4+ Transition. The airport is a pioneer in sustainability & is setting its climate goals in alignment with the ambition of the Paris Agreement

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New Delhi: Delhi Airport achieved a new height in Asia Pacific region for Carbon Accreditation as the Indira Gandhi International Airport or Delhi International Airport Limited has become Asia Pacific’s first Level 4+ (Transition) accredited airport under ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation program, said GMR Group, which owns and operates the airport.

“Delhi airport becomes the first airport in Asia-Pacific region to get Level 4+ accreditation under ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation, affirming our constant efforts towards sustainability and a greener future. #BeyondCarbonNeutral #NetZeroCarbonEmission2030,” the Delhi Airport tweeted on Wednesday.

At the ACI EUROPE Annual Congress, it was announced that two airports have already reached Level 4+, the first in their respective regions to do so. These included Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in the United States, Indira Gandhi Internationa Airport in India. The announcement that “the airport is a pioneer in sustainability in their region & is now setting its climate goals in alignment with the ambition of the Paris Agreement. HATS OFF!”

Talking about the achievement, Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, DIAL, said, “Achievement of the Level 4+ accreditation is a testimony of our commitment towards ensuring sustainable development at IGIA. Going forward, we will continue to develop best in class infrastructure and provide services using innovative and sustainable technologies. With this achievement, we have set up new benchmark for other airports in this region to follow.”

Note that Airport Carbon Accreditation is the only institutionally-endorsed, global carbon management certification programme for airports. It independently assesses and recognises the efforts of airports to manage and reduce their carbon emissions through 6 levels of certification: ‘Mapping’, ‘Reduction’, ‘Optimisation’, ‘Neutrality’, ‘Transformation’ and ‘Transition’.

Through its 6 levels of certification, Airport Carbon Accreditation acknowledges that airports are at different stages in their journey towards comprehensive carbon management. It is a programme for airports of all sizes, extending beyond hubs and regional airports with scheduled passenger traffic, to include general aviation and freight-focused airports.

Worth adding here is that at ACI EUROPE’s Annual Congress, live-streamed from Brussels Airport, Olivier Jankovec announced the first major, structural change to the programme since its inception in 2009- two new accreditation levels – Level 4 Transformation and Level 4+ Transition.

The introduction of these two new levels marks a shift in the ambition level of the programme. CO2 emissions reductions and continuous improvements have been at the core of Airport Carbon Accreditation since launch. Level 1 Mapping through to Level 3+ Neutrality do allow for flexibility in the magnitude of reductions achieved. Levels 4 and 4+ set out further obligations – namely Alignment with the Paris Agreement, Extended carbon footprint and Enhanced stakeholder engagement.

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