On January 16, the Indian government made a decision, where thousands of Muslims who go on Haj pilgrimage each year will no longer receive any subsidy or cheaper air tickets from this year onwards. This decision is a part of government’s plan for empowerment of minorities without appeasement.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister for minority affairs, confirmed that the Haj subsidy has been withdrawn. He also said that after Saudi Arabia hiked India’s quota by 5,000, a record 1.75 lakh Muslims would go on the pilgrimage this year, despite Haj subsidy being withdrawn.
He said, “This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement. Muslims didn’t benefit from it. Development with dignity is what we believe in. The subsidy will be used for educating girls.”
Mr Naqvi stated that Saudi Arabia has also agreed to allow people to go on the Haj by ship, which is cheaper than flying. He informed that officials of both countries are working out the details.
In 2012 the Supreme Court passed and order asking the Centre to abolish Haj subsidy gradually by 2022. The policy to withdraw it had been drafted in light of it.
As the cost will go up, the government will offer air and waterways option for the pilgrims.
Mr. Mukhtar Naqvi also told that the funds saved from this will be used for educational empowerment and welfare of girls from minority communities.
The policy stresses on breaking the cartel of contractors with a transparent bidding process. It also aims at rationalising distribution of the Haj quota between the Haj Committee of India and private tour operators in the ratio of 70:30 for the next five years.
After Riyadh relaxed norms and allowed a group of at least four women over the age of 45 to go on Haj unaccompanied, around 1,300 women from India will make the annual pilgrimage without a “Mehram”.
Besides cheaper fare on national carrier Air India, Haj subsidy also includes help to pilgrims provided by the government to reach specially-designed Haj departure terminals at airports, food and medical care.
Allowing older women to travel without male guardians and Ending subsidy were the recommendations of the panel, headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah.