With the Supreme Court ordering, in 2012, that the Haj subsidy be withdrawn within a decade, and the government complying with this a few years in advance—the subsidy had been falling steadily, from Rs 685 crore in 2011 to Rs 200 crore in 2017—it is logical to argue that the same must now be extended to Hindu pilgrimages like the Kailash Mansarovar or even on events like the Kumbh Melas. While the government not subsidising various religions is a good thing, the reality is a bit more nuanced since, even in the case of the Haj, SC had ordered the “subsidy money may be more profitably used for upliftment of the community in education and other indices of social development”—which is why, while removing the Haj subsidy, the government had said the money would be used to educate Muslim girls. Expenditures like those on the Kumbh, unlike the Haj, are not subsidies given to individuals—the court said the Quran said those who could afford the pilgrimage must pay for it, so the subsidy went against the Quran—but are made to ensure adequate infrastructural facilities for very large gatherings of people, including police control; also, such events turn out to be big business for local producers and are also tourism-oriented. To that extent, it is akin to the government building roads or parks for the community, though Kumbh is clearly religious.
Subsidies for individuals, such as the ones for pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar that UP chief minister just doubled, are in a different category and ideally need to be phased out. The arguments made by those opposing this, though, are not without merit either. If Hindu temples were freed from the clutches of the state, one argument goes, they could easily fund such pilgrimages. Two, while minority institutions, like Jain colleges, don’t have to bear the heavy hand of reservations, etc, the ones run by Hindus do. The fact that the government, in any case, is subsidising so many things—food, education, medical expenses, etc—complicates the case for not subsidising religion. Over the medium term, needless to say, the government needs to relook all subsidies, especially those given to individuals.