Mumbai: The Haj Committee of India Thursday published on its website the new Haj Policy for the period of 2018-2022 a day after it was challenged in the Supreme Court of India.
The Kerala State Haj Committee had on Wednesday challenged the new Haj Policy 2018-2022 contending that it was published by the Haj Committee of India even before it was finalized by the Central government.
The Kerala State Haj Committee also said that it was unfair for the Haj Committee of India to receive Haj Application Form (HAF) for Haj 2018 as per the guidelines included in the new Haj policy, which it said was not approved by the central government as yet.
The Haj Committee of India however released a circular dated November 23, 2017 which said the New Haj Policy was approved by the competent authority of the Ministry of Minority Affairs vide letter F.No.4/27/2017-Hajj dated 10.11.2017.
The Kerala State Haj Committee in its petition also said that the guidelines under Hajj 2018 policy are contrary to the judgment in Union of India and Others v. Rafique Shaikh Bhikan and Another.
Other concerns raised by the Kerala State Haj Committee in its petition are regarding reduction of Quota for Haj Committee pilgrims, doing away with exemptions from draw of lots, allocation of Quota to State Haj Committees, Haj Travel Subsidy and removal of Calicut as Embarkation Point.
"The previous policy had prescribed 21 embarkation points which included Calicut for the State of Kerala. The present impugned guidelines have deleted Calicut from the list of embarkation points and have included Cochin as an embarkation point", the petition said.
The Kerala Haj Committee has also objected to increase of Private Tour Operators (PTOs) by 05% in the new Haj Poicy.
“The pilgrim quota for Haj Committees was reduced to 70% and 30% was given to private tour operators thereby increasing the private operator quota by 5%. This decision strikes at the very root of the interest of the pilgrims who want to travel through the Haj Committees", it said.
Earlier, a massive protest against the New Haj Policy guidelines, especially the increase in the quota of Private Tour Operator (PTOs) and cancellation of exmeption given to 5th time applicants, was held outside the Hajj Committee of India headquarters in Mumbai last Friday.
Following the protest, Haj Committee of India CEO had assured that the concerns of the protesters will be looked into. However, it ignored all demands and published on its website Thursday the circular confirming that the new Haj Policy has bee approved by the government.
Modi government in its new Haj 2018 Policy allowed for the first time women of above 45 years of age to apply for Haj even if they do not have a Mehram - a decision which received widespread condemnation.
Meanwhile, the Haj Committee of India has said the process of Haj Application is underway and it has so far received applications from 88 women who want to travel for Haj without Mehram.
The process for Hajj 2018 began on November 15, 2017. The last date to apply is December 07.