Eligibility criteria for private tour operators
Thousands of Haj pilgrims to be carried by private tour operators are in a confused state following a court decision not to hear a petition challenging the distribution of private Haj quota till September 26.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday had adjourned hearing on a petition by a group of private tour operators questioning the government's denial of allocation of Haj passengers to them.
With the Haj Committee having finalised its pilgrimage chart and the first Haj flight scheduled to leave on September 29, dozens of private tour operators and a large number of pilgrims registered under them are a confused lot.
“There is uncertainty among tour operators and passengers as well. We cannot do anything now until the court clears the confusion,” said Shabeer Babu, manager of Alhind Tours and Travels, Kottakkal, one of the leading operators.
What precipitated the crisis was a last-minute government move revising the eligibility criteria for private tour operators. As per the revised criteria, 170 private tour operators were disqualified and their share of quota was allotted to 125 new players.
According to tour operators, the prospects of 10,000 pilgrims were uncertain following the government move. The confusion over private Haj quota will further delay the departure of pilgrims. Till last year, Haj pilgrims under private groups used to leave for Makkah earlier.
This year's private Haj flight is likely to be delayed at least by a week or two. “We have to complete a lot of formalities before chartering the flight. The Hajis have to get their medical examination cleared. Unfortunately, we cannot do anything till the court settles the matter,” Mr. Shabeer Babu said.
For this year's pilgrimage, the government of Saudi Arabia has allotted 1,74,287 visas to India. Out of that, the External Affairs Ministry has allocated 45,587 visas to private tour operators. The Haj Committee has been given as many as 1.25 lakh visas. As many as 3,700 visas have been given to Faiz-e-Husaini Trust of the Bohra sect.
The first Haj flight from the State will leave the Calicut international airport at Karipur on September 29. Saudi Arabian Airlines will operate 27 flights to carry 8,100 pilgrims under government supervision from Kerala, Lakshadweep, and Mahe till October 15. Karipur is the embarkation point for the pilgrims from Kerala, Lakshadweep, and Mahe.
The pilgrims would be flown to Medina, and their return would be from Jeddah.