Haj subsidy: Narendra Modi government Centre has withdrawn annual Haj subsidy being given for Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca. Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday said the funds being given as Haj subsidy will be used for providing education to minorities. This year around 1.75 lakh Muslims will undertake the pilgrimage. According to Naqvi, the Centre had spent Rs 250 crore for subsidising the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Saudi Arabia last year.
The Centre’s move is in line with the Supreme Court order of 2012, which had asked the government to end Haj subsidy. It was also a long standing demand of the BJP – the party which had termed Haj Subsidy as an example of “Muslim appeasement” by parties like the Congress.
Will the Haj subsidy withdrawal make the pilgrimage costlier for Muslims?
Naqvi said the withdrawal of subsidy will not make the cost of pilgrimage very high for Muslims as the government was making efforts to bring it down. According to Naqvi, the Saudi Arabian government has agreed to allow Indians to go on Haj via the sea route and both countries would work out the modalities soon.
Muslims cheated in the name of subsidy?
While a lot reactions have come from various sections on the Centre’s move, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has said the decision on revoking Haj subsidy has no meaning. It said there was no such concession and Muslims were being “cheated” in the name of subsidy. Most of the Muslim organisations have opined there will be little effect of withdrawal of Haj subsidy on the pilgrimage. The subsidy was meant for the airlines.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind president Kari Mohammad Usman told PTI that Haj subsidy was meant for Air India and not for the pilgrims.
It is believed by many that Haj subsidy was merely an eyewash, not much useful for the pilgrims. According to a report by Outlook magazine, the pilgrims had to pay a subsidised return airfare of Rs 45,000. However, if booked well in advance, the piligrims could get Delhi-Jeddah return fare for only around Rs 30,000. This shows that not the pilgrims, but only the Air India was benefiting from the subsidy.
Some Muslim critics of Haj subsidy like AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi says Air India’s monopoly of transporting pilgrims to Saudi Arabia should stop and global tenders be called on lesser prices. This will allow more people to go for Haj. However, with the Centre announcing the use of sea route for transporting Haj pilgrims, the cost is expected to come down in near future.
Gradual decline in subsidy since 2012
Since 2012, there has been a gradual decline in the amount of Haj subsidy. Sources in minortity affairs ministry told PTI that the government had had the notional savings to the tune of Rs 636.56 crore since 2012 due to gradual abolition of the subside. If the gradual abolition had continued till 2022, the Centre would have save around Rs 5970 crore.