Air ticket prices have gone up 20% for Hajj pilgrims as the government continues to cut Hajj subsidy given to eligible pilgrims, said officials at the ministry of civil aviation. Tickets that were available for Rs 35,000 last year cost about Rs 42,000 now.
In 2010, the ministry of minority affairs proposed that the subsidy should be removed as it goes against the teachings of Islam.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the government to abolish subsidy-related travel by 2022. As a practice, every year the government has cut the subsidy given on air fares and increased air ticket prices, said the officials.
However, over the years, a larger number of Hajjis availed the subsidy. In 2000, the number of those who got the subsidy was about 70,000; the number went up to 1,25,000 in 2011, a year before the Supreme Court ruling came.
Last year, the government gave a subsidy of Rs 750 crore to Hajj pilgrims, which the government expects to cut to Rs 500 crore this fiscal.
The Hajj travel subsidy was given to Indian Muslim pilgrims. The subsidy, initially for all Indian Muslim travellers, was limited to those who applied through the Hajj Committee in 1979. The subsidised fare was offered by Air India and two other Middle Eastern airlines, one of them being Saudia.
In 2000, more than 1.5 million Muslims used the subsidy, and every year around 100,000 travellers avail the concessionary fare.
In 2008, the subsidy was more than double of the last year’s at R73,000 for each traveller from the country. The subsidy also included special assistance to travellers like meals, medical care and lodging. However, the majority of the concession was on air tickets.
Every year, over 230 flights take pilgrims to the religious destination and fly them back. Officials said 50% of the seats are provided by state-owned carrier Air India.