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Haj travel: Reserved seats outnumber open category

CHARMINAR: With the Haj season in full swing, the Telangana State Haj Committee has made all arrangements for travel and accommodation of the over 3,000 pilgrims from the state.

But, it is also grappling with a peculiar issue of the number of seats under the reserved category greatly outnumbering those under the open category .

Sources from the Telangana State Haj Committee said that the reserved categories are of two types, one those who have applied for the fourth time to make the Haj pilgrimage, and the other for those who are over 70 years old.

Both are selected automatically. While pilgrims are selected by means of qurrah, or draw of lots, those who apply under reserved categories are eligible, usually with no questions asked. Sample this: out of the allotted quota of 3,367 from the state, 3,037 are from the reserved categories. This means that applicants who will be making the pilgrimage this year under the reserved categories comprise a massive 90.19 per cent of the quota.

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“This is a result of the policy that was designed by the Centre. The state has no say in this. This has been the policy for many years. It appears that people have understood that their seat will be confirmed if they apply four times in a row,” said a source from the Telangana State Haj Committee.

This year, Telangana State Haj Committee received as many as 20,600 applications.

Out of these around 17,500 were under open category. “Over 3,000 pilgrims got seats under reserved category. The remainder of the 3,367 were under the open category ,” confirmed a source. There is possibility that a few more pilgrims will be able to make the pilgrimage.

This is on account of cancellation by other pilgrims. Speaking to TOI, Telangana State Haj Committee special officer, Prof S A Shukoor said, “The Haj policy gets reviewed once in 10 years. It is due for review in 2018. It is likely that apart from other aspects, the question of reserved seats will also be looked into.”

Prof Shukoor said that the state cannot change the policy and that it will have to be dealt by the Centre. However, states can submit suggestions or proposals.

This year Telangana State Haj Committee will fly pilgrims on as many as 14 flights to Saudi Arabia. Each flight has a capacity of 450 passengers. The carrier this year is Saudi Arabian Airlines.