Not everytime the demand political opponents are accepted by the parties in power but today India witnessed the rare case. The abolition of the Haj Subsidy was one such demand that the Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi– one of Modi government’s highest critique– have been making for quite some time. Today, minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced that there will be no Haj Subsidy and said the move was part of the government’s efforts to “empower minorities” without appeasement. Reacting to the government’s decision, Owaisi said, “I have been saying since 2006 that this Haj subsidy money should be used for the education of Muslim children, especially girls.” Though his demands were fulfilled, Owaisi said there is no need to beat the trumpet as earlier the Supreme Court had directed that the Haj subsidy be done away with (Zyaada baaja bajane ki zarurat nahi hai, 2012 mein Supreme Court ka judgement aa chuka tha).
A record number of 1.75 lakh Muslims will undertake the pilgrimage this year from India, Naqvi told reporters. The government had spent over Rs 250 crore last year on subsidising the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Saudi Arabia, he said. The decision is in line with a 2012 Supreme Court order, asking the government to do away with the subsidy, which had long been sought by the BJP. The BJP had cited the subsidy as an example of “Muslim appeasement” by parties such as the Congress. Following the order, the subsidy was being gradually reduced every year. “It is part of the Modi government’s efforts to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement,” Naqvi said.
Reacting to the development, the Congress said that it hopes the Modi government will utilise the money for the upliftment of the disempowered among the minorities. Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “Supreme Court bench headed by J Aftab Alam had directed abolition of Haj subsidy within 10 years in May 2012 besides asking for utilisation of money for education and upliftment of minorities.” He further wrote, “We sincerely hope that Modi Government will honour the SC direction and utilise this money for the disempowered including — Modern education to children, especially young girls from minority community….”
Though the Congress party did not oppose the Center’s move, the Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury said that Haj subsidy should not be revoked completely and facilities for those going for the annual pilgrimage should be increased.