Saudi Arabia has hiked the annual Haj quota for India by 34,500 after Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Saudi Arabia’s Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten signed an agreement in Jeddah on Wednesday. The increase, which will be effective from this year, has taken India’s Haj quota from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520, reported PTI.

Naqvi said that it is the “biggest increase” in quota for Haj pilgrims since 1988 and added that it was “a matter of pleasure” for the government to announce this hike in quota. Naqvi further said transport, accommodation and safety of the pilgrims were also discussed at the meeting.

The government has started issuing application forms for Haj pilgrims from January 2. The last date of submission is January 24. The government this time has asked devotees to submit their applications online. Naqvi had launched the Haj Committee of India mobile application on January 2. Besides, the Haj website, which was launched in December last year, also provides all the information. Last year, 1,35,903 people from India performed Haj, according to PTI.

In 2012, Saudi Arabia had reduced the Haj quotas for foreign pilgrims from each country by 20%. They had said that the decision to slash the quota was taken keeping in mind pilgrims’ safety as the Grand Mosque was being expanded at that time.