For more than 10,000 Haj pilgrims, the dream of boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia on September 29 for the annual Haj pilgrimage has been put on hold.
These pilgrims had paid the advance for their air tickets, accommodation and visa formalities to private tour operators whose licenses have now been cancelled by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
The MEA has cancelled licences of 170 private tour operators from across the country, 56 of which are from Mumbai, on September 14, a fortnight before their clients were set to depart.
The All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers’ Association (AIHUTOA) has challenged the MEA’s move in the Bombay high court. The petition filed on Friday has sought an explanation for the cancellation of the licenses.
“The Ministry issued a circular in July demanding the necessary application papers and added new pointers in the form. The circular stated that travel operators had to own a 250 square feet office (carpet area), which was unreasonable,” said Rafique Shaikh, general secretary of the Association while addressing a press conference on Friday. “What justification are we going to give the pilgrims,” added Shaikh, who has been a Haj tour operator for the last two decades.
“We are hoping that the high court will hear our case by Monday,” said advocate Mobin Solkar, who will represent the Association in the HC.