From next year, women above 45 years will not need a male relative to accompany them for Haj if travelling in groups of four or more.

This was proposed by a Centre-appointed panel on Saturday, October 7.

The panel also advised the government to phase out subsidies it spends on Haj pilgrims in its proposals for a New Haj Policy for 2018-22.

Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi made the announcement after a Haj review committee, headed by retired IAS officer Afzal Amanullah, handed him the new policy report listing several recommendations.

"Some sects among Muslims don't allow the travel of women unaccompanied by mahram, while others do. It is up to the sects to use this option," said Amanullah to the Times of India. He added that the Saudi authorities had permitted the government to employ the norm. 

It has also been recommended that coupons for 'Adahi' (sacrifice of animals) be made compulsory for all the pilgrims and the quota of Mehram be increased from the present 200 to 500.

The special quota for pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir may be increased from 1,500 to 2,000.

The committee suggested that the number of embarkation points (EPs) be reduced from 21 to nine. Those should be at Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kochi.

Women’s rights groups have welcomed the move. They claim that the recommendation will help remove the perception that Islam considers women inferior to men.

However, orthodox clerics termed it "interference with Sharia".

"A Muslim woman has to be accompanied by a mahram if they travel such a distance," said Mufti Mohammed Huzaifa Qasmi of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind to the Times of India.