The Cabinet has approved the first Haj policy after blatant mismanagement last year led to the sacking of the Religious Affairs Minister and the pursuit of a criminal investigation against him. That alone should have shown the sensitivities involved, as the people performing Haj may be placing their entire life savings in this pilgrimage. This year, according to the new policy, there will be no balloting, but applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The quota has been enhanced to 179,000, and the cost reduced up to Rs 26,000. However, the air fare would increase by Rs 5000. The reduction presumably reflects the excessive spending that formed the subject of corruption among involved officials. The present minister and his team deserve commendation for drafting a policy which keeps the intending pilgrim uppermost. This is shown in the inclusion of a small charge of Rs 400 for life and personal injury insurance under the Muhafiz Scheme. However, the real focus will be on providing accommodation to the pilgrims, which was so poor last year that the whole scandal was exposed. The government intends to accord the pilgrims the monorail facility provided from traveling from Mina. Another decision has been to recruit Khuddamul Haj from the Pakistani students already studying in Saudi Arabia, rather than giving anyones constituents a free trip, something which was done in the past. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the process is to begin with the receipt of applications at 5000 bank branches throughout the country from April 15 to May 10. From this moment, the Religious Affairs Ministry will find itself under a scrutiny greater than ever before. The intending pilgrims do not ask for more than a smooth experience, without any of the foul-ups which reached a head last year. The governments ability to give them such an experience not only defines its concern for the people, but is also a religious duty.