DRAFT POL­ICY PRO­POSES ABOL­ISH­ING HAJ SUB­SIDY

The Sunday Guardian - - The Big Story - CON­TIN­UED FROM P1

route re­opens, the whole sys­tem will be stream­lined. We have asked the de­part­ments con­cerned to pro­vide us with big ships that can carry up to 5,000 peo­ple in a sin­gle jour­ney.”

As far as the abo­li­tion of sub­sidy on air travel is con­cerned, sources within the Min­istry said that the gov­ern­ment is lay­ing out a plan to cal­cu­late new fares for which more air­lines will be able to bid other than Air India. The gov­ern­ment also plans to in­tro­duce a trans­par­ent bid­ding process to break the “car­tel of con­trac­tors” and bring down hir­ing rate with bet­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Dis­tri­bu­tion of quota be­tween the Haj Com­mit­tee of India (HCoI) and Pri­vate Tour Op­er­a­tors ( PTOs) will be ra­tio­nalised in the ra­tio of 70:30 for the next five years. Ac­cord­ing to the new rec­om­men­da­tions, the quota for mehram should be in­creased from 200 to 500 and the spe­cial quota for Jammu & Kash­mir should be in­creased from 1,500 to 2,000. The states/ UTs re­ceiv­ing less than 500 ap­pli­ca­tions should get pri­or­ity in dis­tri­bu­tion of sur­plus seats. This will ben­e­fit UTs like An­daman & Ni­co­bar Is­lands, Lak­shad­weep, Dadra & Na­gar Haveli, Da­man, Diu and Puducherry as well as smaller states such as Ch­hat­tis­garh, Goa, Hi­machal Pradesh and Ma­nipur. The com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended abol­ish­ing the re­served cat­e­gory of ap­pli­cants, viz. 70+ and fourth timers, and to al­low women above 45 years of age to travel in a group of four or more for Haj with­out mehram (male guardian).

For the PTOs, the com­mit­tee has rec­om­mended de­vel­op­ing a ro­bust por­tal for the pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­ca­tions, as well as to for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive em­pan­el­ment pol­icy for the PTOs that would fa­cil­i­tate eas­ier and quicker re­newals. Ac­cord­ing to the recom­men- da­tions, em­pan­el­ment is to be done on the ba­sis of doc­u­ments as well as phys­i­cal in­spec­tion of the PTOs and strin­gent norms will be fol­lowed for black­list­ing and for­fei­ture of se­cu­rity de­posit of PTOs.

The com­mit­tee started its work on 15 Fe­bru­ary 2017 with Afzal Aman­ul­lah, IAS (Retd), for­mer Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of India and ex-CGI, Jed­dah, as con­venor; and Jus­tice S.S. Parkar, re­tired judge of the Bom­bay High Court, Qaiser Shamim, IRS (Retd) and for­mer Chair­man, Haj Com­mit­tee of India, Ka­mal Faruqui, noted char­tered ac­coun­tant and Mus­lim scholar as mem­bers. J. Alam, joint sec­re­tary in charge of Haj, Min­istry of Mi­nor­ity Af­fairs, was the mem­ber sec­re­tary of the com­mit­tee.

Dr Syed Za­far Mah­mood, founder, Zakat India Foun­da­tion, who had served as First Sec­re­tary for Haj from India to Jed­dah be­tween 1988-91, said: “Mak­ing Ada- hi coupons or Qur­bani coupons com­pul­sory for each pil­grim is a wel­come move. But I do not un­der­stand why the quota for re­served cat­e­gory of ap­pli­cants for 70+ years and fourth timers is be­ing abol­ished. The re­newal of the sea route does not seem to be a wise de­ci­sion. It only suits the lobby in Mum­bai and will en­cour­age smug­gling.” Adahi coupons are given to pil­grims for “qur­bani”, which is manda­tory to be per­formed at the end of Haj.

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