PTOs from the State get only 1,943 seats

Private tour operators (PTOs) in the State get only 1,943 seats as their Haj quota this time, according to the quota allocation details (for PTOs) available on the Haj Committee of India website. This will be divided among 35 PTOs operating across the State. The majority of the PTO applicants is from Malappuram district.

A drastic nation-wide cut in the PTOs’ quota follows a 20 per cent cut insisted by the Saudi government in the number of pilgrims from all countries, including India, this year owing to some ongoing expansion works there.

Based on an understanding, the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had decided to slash the 20 per cent quota entirely from the PTOs, instead of dividing it among them and the Haj committee. The Saudi government, as per a bilateral Haj pact signed between the two countries, had allocated 1,70,000 Haj seats for India this year. The MEA had divided this among the Haj committee and private operators (1,25,000 for the Haj committee and 45,000 for the latter). However after the cut, the entire PTOs in the country were left with around 17,000 seats (against 45,000 last year) to be divided among them for this year.

This year, 8,470 people are going for Haj under the government sector from the State. Though private tour operators had demanded that percentage cut in quota be equally divided among the PTOs and the Haj committee, the latter’s share was left untouched.

According to Haj committee sources, 863 applications were received by the Haj Cell under the MEA from the PTOs in the country this year. Of these, 278 were in Category A (with over seven years’ experience in the field), while 585 were in Category B (with lesser experience). After evaluation of all the 863 applications, 177 qualified in the first category and 293 in the second.

From Kerala, though there were several applicants in the PTO category, only 35 were considered eligible. Of these, 25 PTOs were in category A and the rest in Category B. No PTO from the State has secured more than 60 seats.

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