Over 80 per cent of the 38,154 applicants from Kerala in the government sector will not be able to go for Haj this time as the State has been given only 6,784 seats out of the annual quota. The share was decided based on the Muslim populations of the States and not on the proportion of the number of applicants from each of them.
The State Haj Committee is now concerned that those wishing to make use of the discretionary Haj quota have been asked to apply directly to the External Affairs Ministry, overruling the traditional practice of making the State Haj Committee distribute the seats. The discretionary quota comprises additional seats regularly given by the Ministry to the State, through the State Haj Committee till last year, besides the annual quota. Most number of applications for Haj comes from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. The Karipur airport is the sole embarkation point for the pilgrims from Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mahe, which makes Kozhikode the nerve centre of all activities related to the pilgrimage from the State.
Panel cautions MEA
The committee, conveying its disapproval of the decision, has cautioned the Ministry that direct applications will lead to irregularities and corruption, spoiling the chances of many deserving applicants.
P.T.A Rahim, Chairman of the committee, told The Hindu here on Sunday that he had written to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna about the committee's concern.
The clause that the application needed to be sent along with a recommendation letter from a Minister or an MP would come in the way of the chances of many.
Mr. Rahim said the committee used to consider the seniority and other merits of the applicants. “But the Ministry is going to distribute it based on the applicants' capability to manage a recommendation letter from an MP or a Minister,” he said.
What would a poor, aging man, with no wherewithal to obtain a recommendation letter, do to get a chance to go on the pilgrimage, he wondered.
“We would have had no complaints if the Ministry was issuing the quota on the basis of merit or any other reasonable criteria,” he said.
Mr. Rahim had written to all 29 MPs from the State bringing the issue to their attention.
He alleged that the decision would help unscrupulous lobbies and interest groups commit corruption and fleece the poor Haj aspirants.
The last hope
The discretionary quota was the last hope to many applicants as they could not afford the high rates charged by private Haj service groups.
The Ministry has more than 11,000 seats in the discretionary quota, but the State Haj Committee fears that most of it will end up in the hands of powerful and influential people and the poor and the deserving would be excluded.