Left smells a rat in private quota

Left smells a rat in private quota
Highlights

Endangering the health and safety of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, private tour operators without expertise, trade licence or even an office have been allegedly selected by the Ministry of External Affairs for the allocation of Haj quota to private operators under the guise of draw of lots in 2015. 

Hyderabad: Endangering the health and safety of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, private tour operators without expertise, trade licence or even an office have been allegedly selected by the Ministry of External Affairs for the allocation of Haj quota to private operators under the guise of draw of lots in 2015.

The criterion for providing allotment is five years of experience, but it is being alleged that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has selected three from the city and at least another 14 across the country in 2015, in violation of norms. According to a reply for an RTI on February 2, 2016, it has come to light that two out of three operators which were selected during 2015 from the city do not have ‘Trade Licence’.

“These tour operators, who do not have expertise in handling pilgrimage, were selected by MEA. An enquiry must be made into allotment of quota to these tour operators as they could endanger the lives of pilgrims,” said CPI (M) city secretary M Srinivas.

City-based Zoha Tours & Travels and Al Furqan Tours & Travels, had no office at the address mentioned in the records of GHMC. The reply to RTI query was “no record found,” he said. Apart from this, Al-Ijabah Tours & Travels also known as Al Ijabah Tours Haj & Umrah based in Chatta Bazar did not have prior experience in providing service to Haj and Umra pilgrims.

Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs had rejected an RTI filed on January 29, 2015, seeking proof of their expertise with documents of air ticket details. It cited ‘commercial confidence trade secrets’ as a reason to deny information. Under Secretary (Haj) Chander Shekhar in his response informed that as per the registration policy of MEA all of these three private tour operators (Al-Ijabah Tours, Zoha Tours & Travels, Al Furqan Tours & Travels) had submitted proof of payment for air ticket and accommodation for Umrah pilgrims for five years. They qualified for the quota allotment through a draw of lots in 2015.

The CPI (M) leader alleged that there was a nexus between officials of MEA and the private tour operators, as there was a systematic fraud in the allocation of Haj quota to private operators under the guise of draw of lots. “Top officials in MEA are intentionally keeping aside genuine operators, while allocating the quota to unqualified tour operators. We suspect that officials have received kickbacks worth not less than Rs 50 lakh from each operator. A total of 17 operators selected throughout the country do not meet the criteria of five years experience,” he alleged.

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