The government is working out ways to raise the number of online Haj applicants to 70 per cent from the 11 per cent recorded last year, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
The Minister also said the Centre would request the Saudi government to increase the quota for Indian Haj pilgrims.
“The government is working out ways to promote online application for Haj. Last year, only 45,843 people applied online for the Haj pilgrimage, which is 11 per cent of total applications received. We plan to increase this number to at least 70 per cent,” Naqvi said.
Naqvi was in the city to preside over a meeting of All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers Association.
During the meeting, the Union Minister said that the Centre wants to provide best of services and facilities to Pilgrims.
“A short film, which would give information regarding the Haj pilgrimage, would be prepared,” he said.
“Along with the Haj committee of India, private tour organisers also have an important role to play during the Haj. We are ready to extend all possible help and guidance to private operators,” Naqvi said.
He also said that the Centre has already started making preparations for the next Haj and Chief Ministers and MPs from all states have been asked to give their suggestions.
Meanwhile, Baba Bhai Kolsawala, Chairman- All India Haj Umrah Tour Organisers Association, demanded that service tax should not be levied on private tour operators.
“Service tax on the Haj pilgrim going through private operator is an extra burden, whereas the tax is exempted for the pilgrims going through Haj Committee. Haj is a religious obligation, hence, all the pilgrims should be exempted from the Service Tax,” Kolsawala said.
He said that their other demands include proportional distribution of quota between Haj Committee of India and private operators, streamlining the process of submission and scrutiny of tour operators’ files.