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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Private operators also not spared

New Delhi: Not only those Haj pilgrims who have chosen the Central Haj Committee for the pilgrimage have been affected by the prejudiced government policy, those who prefer the private tour operators for the pilgrimage have also not been spared. In fact uncertainty looms large on thousands of people who have chosen the various private tour operators across the country for the pilgrimage.

The union civil aviation ministry has suddenly hiked the Air India fare to Saudi Arabia. It has also decided to utilize smaller planes in place of Boeing aircraft. If the government persists with its decision more than 26000 people would not be able to perform Haj. 

The All India Haj and Umrah Tour Organisers Association has appealed to the prime minister to immediately intervene in the matter as the fate of thousands of pilgrims is locked in the uncertainty and have to postpone their programme. In a letter to prime minister the Association chairman Alhaj Sayeeduddin said Air India has given reservation to 40 percent of pilgrim who are going through the private tour operators. He said Air India’s decision is against to the promise made to the tour operators.

He said it was unfortunate that in place of utilizing Boeing planes which have a capacity to carry 425 passengers, it was decided to utilize Airbus 310 which has a capacity of only 210 passengers. He also said this time fare to Jeddah has been increased by more than Rs.2400. "Currently the return ticket to London by Air India is Rs. 29000 — while return ticket to Jeddah has become Rs. 32000." and even then the seats are not available, he added. He made a fervent appeal to the PM to instruct Air India to use additional flights so that people could perform the pilgrimage on right time. Sayeed also said the tour operators have deposited crores of rupees in Mekkah and Medina for the accommodation of Hajis and if they could not reach on time there would be a big loss to the tour operators. Haj pilgrims from Delhi Karnataka, Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh will be badly affected by the decision of civil aviation ministry.

Andalib Akhter

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