Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday, granted permission to six companies to send pilgrims on the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry, Deputy Minister Shafiu Ali, stated that a total of 18 companies submitted their proposals.
However, six of these companies were rejected over failure to complete the required procedures.
- Acro Pvt Ltd
- Maldives Hajj Corporation Ltd
- Mina Hajj Umrah Pvt Ltd
- Al-Haramain Hajj and Umrah Company Pvt Ltd
- ZAEE GROUP Pvt Ltd
- Thazkiya Pvt Ltd
Out of the 1,000 official quota allocations from Saudi to Maldives, 450 slots are issued to private companies. When distributed evenly, each company receives 90 slots. The remaining 550 slots are allocated for the Hajj Corporation.
The ministry revealed that Saudi government guaranteed granting an additional quota of 1,000, adding that the slots will be distributed evenly between the companies.
According to Shafiu, Maldivians hold Hajj proceedings in a doubtful regard. However, the ministry aims to regain the public's trust.
He noted the establishment of Hajj Evaluation Committee as a monumental step taken to ensure transparency in pilgrimage proceedings.
Prior to this, proposals to facilitate pilgrimage is evaluated by a committee chosen by the Islamic Minister at the time.
The Hajj Evaluation Committee was established with members from other government bodies such as Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Finance, Attorney General's (AG) Office and Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
Additionally, Shafiu revealed that details of the evaluation will be publicised on the ministry's website. He further assured that the Hajj Mission will closely monitor whether the companies proceed according to their proposals.
"Unlike previous years, this time we have taken stricter measures. If any companies go against their agreement -- for example if it is proven that the company is demanding larger payments than the agreed amount -- the policies have been amended to nullify the quota that was granted."
State Minister Ilyas Jamal admitted that permits to facilitate pilgrimage was issued very late this year, due to the amendment and strengthening of policies. However, he assured that companies will receive permits during December or January in the upcoming years.
Moreover, Ilyas stated that the previous policies only allowed certain groups to submit proposals, noting that the amended policies allow every company meeting the established requirements to take part in the evaluation process.
He mentioned that providing more opportunities will result in a positive outcome.
The prices for the pilgrimage are decided by the company facilitating the pilgrims. Ilyas stated that the Hajj Mission will conduct a research on pilgrimage prices before opening for company submissions next year.