With hardly a month left for the Haj Committee of India (HCOI) to collect applications for subsidised travel for pilgrims this year, community groups are demanding that the non-subsidised quota system be directed through HCOI.
The subsidised quota for the Haj pilgrimage under the HCOI is 1.25 lakh Hajis while 40,000 pilgrims go through private operators.
City-based groups such as the Movement for Human Welfare (MHW) will attend a hearing in the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the petition to transfer the process of allotment of quota to HCOI under a ‘non-subsidised category’.
“Every year, thousands of Haj pilgrims are cheated by tour operators who indulge in blackmarketing,” said Mahrukh Azimuddin, president of MHW.
“The only way to stop this is to transfer the quota to the HCOI which should put up a list of selected Hajis on their website under the non-subsidised category,” he added.
Shakir Husain, CEO, Haj Committee of India, said he had heard of cases of cheating by tour operators but refused to comment on the suggestion to transfer the PTO quota to the Haj committee.
“I cannot comment on this now as the matter is subjudice,” said Husain.
Several tour operators also agreed with the suggestion. “Some operators do indulge in exploitation of pilgrims,” said Iqbal Mulla, president, Travel Agents’ Association of India. “But it will be good if the HCOI can allot the list of Hajis travelling through PTOs,” he added.
The last date for applications to be sent to state Haj committees is March 20.
This year, the ministry of external affairs has directed the HCOI to restrict the number of pilgrimages for a Haj applicant to ‘once in a life time’ as against the existing ‘once in five years’.
Last year, the Supreme Court had directed the government to phase out subsidised Haj travel within ten years.