The new Haj policy that Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Labour and Manpower Syed Khursid Shah announced on Thursday deserves attention. It is pleasing to know that sending people on pilgrimage on government expense has been discontinued. This practice has in fact degenerated into a tool to promote cronyism by the rulers. Most important of all, he gave the assurance that the total expense that an individual would have to bear has been cut by Rs 35,000. It is now fixed at Rs 200,000. Reducing the cost would greatly lessen the financial burden on the faithful observing one of their most important religious obligations. These are times when inflation has hit the masses hard and, therefore, it becomes the governments duty to minimise the expenditures that the Hajis have to incur. At the same time, he announced the discontinuation of the policy of carrying out Haj draw and said that applications would be assessed on first-come first-serve basis. These applications would be received from 10th to 30th April. However, care must be taken because the onus now is on the Haj authorities to work out a transparent mechanism and genuinely accept applications on first-come first-serve basis. These changes assume all the more importance given the disastrous way the government handled the Haj operations last year when the hapless Hajis had not only been fleeced but they had been provided accommodation at places far away from the Holy city of Makkah. Keeping in view the massive deception to which Hajis had been subjected, fleeced out of their hard-earned money on the promise of facilities that were never provided, it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that the new policy works aboveboard. It is completely transparent. Only then the confidence that the nation has lost could be recreated. One should have wished that while announcing the policy, the envisaged safeguard mechanism had also been spelled out.