Airline companies charging 67K to one lakh  more rupees from certain EPS

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Airline companies charging 67K to one lakh more rupees from certain EPS

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Contrary to Smiriti Irani’s claim, Haj becomes more costly

New Delhi: The first phase of the transfer of Indian Hajis to Saudi Arabia began on May 21 at 20 out of 25 embarkation points throughout the country. However, the inexplicable and exorbitant increase in the fares at the most of 25 embarkation points (EPs) has caused deep anger among the Indian pilgrims. Contrary to Minority Affairs Minister Smiriti Irani’s claim that the cost per pilgrim has been reduced by Rs 90,000, the Central Haj Committee is charging over Rs 4 lakh to 3 lakh from each pilgrim exclusive of foreign exchange money. A petition has been filed in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court challenging the sharp increase in prices.

Huge differences in Haj charges can be judged from the fares fixed at different EPs. For example, if a pilgrim takes a flight from Mumbai, he/she has to pay Rs 3.05 lakh while from Aurangabad which is just 400 km away from Mumbai, the fare is fixed at Rs3.93 lakh, and for Nagpur another EP in Maharashtra its Rs 3.72 lakh. It’s a huge gap of Rs 88,000. Likewise, a haji embarking at Hyderabad and Bangalore has to pay Rs 3.05 lakh and Rs 3.04 lakh respectively. In contrast, for Srinagar and Gaya (Bihar) charges are Rs 3.95 lakh and over Rs 4 lakh respectively.

Because of exorbitant charges at most of EPS, many applicants have sought a change in their EPs. Many of them are dissatisfied and desire to alter their EP at this time. For example, 3,266 hajis will embark from Nagpur airport but they can’t afford to spend an extra Rs67, 000 when they can make the pilgrimage from Mumbai for less money. Likewise, 1,773 Hajis will take a flight from Aurangabad and have to pay an additional Rs 88,000.

There is news circulating on social media that about 117 pilgrims from the Yavatmal district wanted a change in the embarkation location from Nagpur to Mumbai.

In Aurangabad, on behalf of 64 Haj pilgrims, attorney Syed Tausif Yaseen filed a petition. Yaseen claimed that the petitioners objected to the Haj Committee of India’s May 6, 2023 circular asking for an additional Rs 88,000. According to the appeal, the intended Hajis were kept in the dark until the very last minute about expenses. The petition argued that in 2019, the fare difference between the embarkation sites in Mumbai and Aurangabad was only Rs 10,500.

Normally, it costs just Rs. 3,500 to go from Mumbai to Aurangabad on one side. The Bombay High Court’s single bench took notice of the case and ordered the Haj Committee to provide an explanation for the significant hike in the cost for the Aurangabad EP before June 12. However, the Bench asked them to deposit the third and final payment for Haj expenditures. Aurangabad was not designated as the EP for Haj pilgrims in 2020, 2021, or 2022.

Many Hajis are now in a terrible situation as a result of this added expense. Several hajjis spoke with this correspondent at the Delhi airport and told that they faced many problems including the administration of vaccines.

This situation disproves the assertion made by Smriti Irani, Minister for Minority Affairs that this year the ministry worked to lessen the financial burden on Indian Hajis. When this scribe confronted Smiriti Irani, she stated that pilgrims have consistently asked for a designated Embarkation Point (EP) to be established near their individual points of departure in as many States as feasible.

It was decided in the Haj Policy-2023 to designate 25 EPs for Haj 2023. Accordingly, bids for air charter arrangements were called for all 25 Eps. Bids were received for only 22 EPs, out of which 10 EPs were successfully bid by GoAir, which however subsequently became insolvent.

It seems the main reason behind the steep increase in fares is that GoAir declared itself bankrupt. These EPs were originally allocated to GoAir. Presently, pilgrims are proceeding for Haj from 20 EPs. As many as eight air companies including Vistara, Spicejet, AIX, flydeal, Indigo, Air India, Saudi airline, and Flynas have been assigned the task of transportation.

As per the new Haj policy, all pilgrims were given the choice of selecting two EPs. On the basis of their first choice, all 100% of pilgrims were accommodated in the EPs of their own preference. But this option seems to be only on paper as very few hajis were allowed to change.

In the first phase, 54,000 pilgrims will depart from Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kolkata, and other EPs which commenced on 21st May 2023 to 06th June 2023 while the remaining 85,000 pilgrims shall depart in phase II from 07th June 2023 to 22nd June 2023.