NEW DELHI: The Centre has started working on a new policy to make Haj affordable through private tour operators. The new Private Tour Operators (PTOs) Policy for Haj is also aimed at bringing more transparency and accountability in the functioning of PTOs, said official sources. They added that the government is also taking help of IIT Delhi’s Department of Management Studies to draft the new policy for better management of Haj PTOs.
Indian Muslims go to Saudi Arabia for Haj either through the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) or the PTOs. Despite scrapping of Haj subsidy from this year, the pilgrimage through HCOI is substantially cheaper than going through PTOs. While Haj through HCoI cost around `2.5- 3 lakh, Haj through PTOs costs anything between `3.5-10 lakh. A senior official in the Ministry of Minority Affairs said that the IIT Delhi team is studying the functioning and management of Haj PTOs in other countries in order to suggest clear guidelines for the functioning of PTOs in India.
“Though there is a policy Haj PTOs, it has some ambiguities. Also, every year, we receive several complaints against the PTOs of pilgrims being duped by them,” he explained.IIT Delhi team is likely to submit its report in next 2-3 months following which the ministry would analyse the report and seek the views of stakeholders on this issue. “The IIT team is collecting data and information from different countries on the issue. We are working on a comprehensive policy for PTOs and also plan to widen the range of prices offered by PTOs. We are exploring ways to bring down the cost of Haj even through PTOs,” he said.
The last PTOs policy for Haj was approved by the Supreme Court in April 2013. That policy was meant for the years 2013-2017. But because a new PTOs policy for Haj was not ready this year, the old policy got an extension. However, the Centre wants to bring a new policy for Haj 2019, sources said.
This year, 1,75,025 Muslims from India have gone for Haj. Out of this, around 1, 28,000 travelled through Haj Committee of India while 47,000 through PTOs.