Govt forms panel to improve Haj policy, look into subsidy issue

The panel will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of the subsidy.

New Delhi: The Centre has formed a six-member committee to give a report on ways to improve India's Haj policy and also look into issue of subsidy to the pilgrimage in light of 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing it by 2022.

Former Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah, Afzal Amanullah has been appointed as convener of the high-level panel, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters in New Delhi on Saturday.

Bombay High Court judge (retd) SS Parkar, ex-Haj Committee of India chairman Qaiser Shamim, former Air India CMD Michael Mascarenhas and Muslim scholar-chartered accountant Kamal Faruqui are also part of the panel, which will have the Ministry Joint Secretary J Alam as member secretary.

Among other, the committee will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of the subsidy.

"The experts committee has been formed and it will give us report in a month or two on how India's Haj policy can be improved, how the pilgrims can get maximum concessions and how Haj can be managed better," Naqvi said.

He said that the panel will speak to all the stakeholders concerned before finalising and submitting its report.

"There are several issues relating to Haj subsidy. Some people are of the view that it should go, some say it should be there. Some have suggested the system at AIR India should be changed. The SC has given its verdict.

"Hence, the experts committee has been formed to look into these aspects. It will speak to all the stakeholders and soon, we will figure out some way," he said on asked about the issue of floating global tender for air travel to Haj.

According to sources, the panel will examine implications of various directions of the apex court with regard to the existing Haj policy, and suitable amendments in it.

The committee will also review the effectiveness of Haj Committee of India's management of pilgrims' accommodation and air travel.

It will also assess the aspects of transparency, consumer satisfaction and disclosure requirements for private tour operators to protect interest of the pilgrims with a view to make the policy of greater assistance to the pilgrims, the sources said.

Last month, in the biggest hike in nearly three decades, Saudi Arabia had increased India's annual Haj quota by 34,500, increasing it from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520 pilgrims.

The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022.

It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year then on educational and social development of the community.

( Source : PTI )
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