Government takes big step; Ends Haj Subsidy
1 month ago Saloni Hindocha 0
Haj Subsidy is provided to the Muslims by the Government in the form of discounted airfare on the Government-owned airline, Air India. This subsidy was given to the Muslims annually. The Central Government withdrew this subsidy on Tuesday. This was a big move on the part of the Government because the withdrawal of Haj subsidy will affect thousands of Muslims who will go on Haj pilgrimage this year. The Government decided that the fund will now be used for the empowerment and upliftment of the minorities from this year.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Minority Affairs Minister said that this move would empower the Muslims and give them a sense of dignity. He added that this move is linked to the Government’s scheme to empower minorities without appeasement and this fund would now be spent in educating girls and women from the minority groups. He also told the media that when we talk about development with dignity, we should also be able to say Haj with dignity. The minister said that despite the scrapping of the Haj subsidy, 1.7 lakh people would still go for the pilgrimage. There are certain exceptions to the rules. The scrapping of Haj subsidy does not apply to the poor and people of over 70 years of age.
In 2012, Asaduddin Owaisi argued that the Haj Subsidy is simply a subsidy for Air India and that ticket prices would be much lower if Air India’s monopoly were broken and pilgrims simply bought their own, unsubsidized tickets on other airlines. In 2012, the Supreme Court had asked the Government to gradually stop giving Haj Subsidy in 10 years citing the Quran which mentioned that the Muslims had to finance the pilgrimage themselves. Ever since the court ruling, the government is spending less and less on Haj Subsidy each year. To quote the exact figures, the Government spent Rs 420 crores in 2016 and Rs 225 crores last year. It is said that Government may save Rs 700 crores by scrapping the Haj subsidy.
To manage the visitors, Saudi Arabia has devised a quota-based system which allows a limited number of pilgrims based on the country’s Muslim population. India had a quota of around 1, 20,000 until recently Saudi Arabia decided to increase the quota by 5000. Naqvi, on Monday, expressed on Twitter that Saudi Arabia had agreed to India’s idea of reviving the sea route travel option for Haj pilgrimage. He said that officials from both the countries would discuss the technicalities and formalities so that it can be restarted soon. An agreement in this regard was signed during the meeting between Naqvi and Muhammad Benten, Saudi Arabia’s Haj and Umrah Minister. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had met Dr. Benten in his office at Mecca for the signing of the annual Haj agreement.
This move of the Government came days after it allowed Muslim women of age 45 or above to go on Haj without male company but in groups of 4 at least. A panel was set up by the Government to suggest a new Haj policy after going over the existing Haj policy. Scrapping subsidy and allowing older women to travel alone without male company were all a part of the recommendations made by the panel. The panel had submitted its reports in October. Aside from cheaper airfare, Haj subsidy covers help given to the pilgrims to reach specially-designed Haj departure terminals at the airport, medical facilities and food. 1, 70, 000 Indians are expected to go on Haj pilgrimage in 2018