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Warning to Haj tour operators

New Delhi, Aug. 6: The ministry of external affairs today cautioned that 36,000 Indian Haj pilgrims may not be able to make the trip this year unless private tour operators end an ongoing dispute with the government.

The foreign ministry had laid down rules that it asked private Haj operators to follow, arguing these were requirements put out by Saudi Arabian authorities.

But private Haj operators, who between them can take 36,000 of the 1,56,000 Indians allowed under the nation’s quota for Haj pilgrims, have challenged the government in multiple courts — in Mumbai, Srinagar, Indore and Thiruvananthapuram.

The operators have obtained a court stay on a ministry order dividing the 36,000 seats among private operators, and outlining the rules they must follow.

The ministry, subsequently, has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court requesting that the stay be lifted.

“Our request to them (operators) is that should they (not) stop this approach of trying to maximise their personal interest at the cost of pilgrims from India, all may suffer,” foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The first batch of Haj pilgrims is scheduled to leave India on August 27.