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Mumbai HC curbs on Haj quota of private tour operators

Monday September 19, 2011 07:35:44 PM, IANS

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Haj tour operators demand release of quota

With the Haj 2011 season fast approaching, over 600 private tour operators and 50,000 prospective pilgrims are in a quandary as the central government has not yet finalised the quota for them, a top official said. The Indian  

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court Monday stayed the allotment of Haj quota to private tour operators till Sep 23 and sought a reply from the central government on the issue, a lawyer said.

The division bench comprising Justice P.B. Majumdar and Justice R.M. Savant was hearing a bunch of over 20 pleas filed by Haj tour operators, said the petitioners' lawyer Aftab Diamondwalla.

Advocate S. Sethna, representing the central government, sought time to file a reply following which the court put off the hearing till Sep 23.

According to Diamondwalla, the petitioners were deprived of their quota following last-minute change in rules by the external affairs ministry and their share (of quota) was allotted to new tour operators.

A quota of 45,491 pilgrims had been allotted to 568 new private tour operators (PTOs), without assigning any valid reasons, he added.

This year, 172,540 Haj pilgrims from India are scheduled to go on the pilgrimage, according to All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers Association (AIHUTOA) general secretary R.S. Bhikhan.

While around 125,000 will go to pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India, the remaining shall go through private tour operators.

Last week, the prospects of nearly 10,000 pilgrims were jeopardized following the sudden cancellation of licences of 170 private tour operators by the government.

The licences were cancelled after the ministry revised the eligibility criteria for private Haj tour operators, said AIHUTOA chairman Ibrahim Kolsawala.

The first batch of pilgrims for the most awaited Muslim holy pilgrimage is scheduled to leave Sep 29, and a majority of the affected victims were from Mumbai, he said.

One of the criterion stipulated by the central government was that the private Haj tour operators must have a 250 square feet office.

Since around 170 operators failed to meet the new criteria, their licences to conduct Haj 2011 pilgrimage were cancelled and 125 new operators were included in their place, he said.

"This is arbitrary, unjust and will entail collective losses of over Rs.50 crore to these 170 Haj operators," Kolsawala told IANS.

The services provided by the private tour operators include visa arrangements, tickets and insurance, accommodation in Makkah and Madina, food, transportation, tour guides and medical assistance.





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