New Delhi: The Centre has formed a six-member committee to assess how to improve India’s Haj policy and also look into the issue of subsiding pilgrims in light of 2012 Supreme Court order directing government to scale down and eliminate the subsidy by 2022.

Former Consul-General of India (CGI) in Jeddah, Afzal Amanullah, has been appointed convener of the high-level panel, according to Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Bombay High Court judge (retired) S.S. Parkar, ex-Haj Committee of India chairman Qaiser Shamim, former Air India CMD Michael Mascarenhas and Muslim scholar and chartered accountant Kamal Faruqui are also on the panel, which will have Ministry Joint Secretary J. Alam as member secretary.

The committee will also figure out whether pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of the subsidy.

“The experts committee has been formed and it will give us [a] report in a month or two on how India’s Haj policy can be improved, how pilgrims can get maximum concessions and how Haj can be managed better,” Naqvi said.

He said that the panel will speak to all the stakeholders concerned before finalising and submitting its report.

“There are several issues relating to [the] Haj subsidy. Some people are of the view that it should go, some say it should be there. Some have suggested the system at Air India should be changed,” he said.

“The [Supreme Court] has given its verdict. Hence, the experts committee has been formed to look into these aspects. It will speak to all the stakeholders and soon, we will figure out some way,” he said in response to a question on the floating of a global tender for air travel to Haj.”

According to sources, the panel will examine the implications of various directions of the apex court with regard to the existing Haj policy, and come up with suitable amendments to it.

The committee will also review the effectiveness of the Haj Committee of India’s management of pilgrims’ accommodation and air travel.

It will also assess the aspects of transparency, consumer satisfaction and disclosure requirements for private tour operators to protect the interest of pilgrims, with a view to rendering greater assistance to them, the sources said.

Last month, in the biggest hike in nearly three decades, Saudi Arabia increased India’s annual Haj quota by 34,500 — from 136,020 to 170,520 pilgrims.

The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish the Haj subsidy by 2022.

It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs6.5 billion (Dh a year then on the educational and social development of the community.