New Delhi: The central government has withdrawn the subsidy given to Haj pilgrims. Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the decision is in line with the government’s agenda to empower miniorities without appeasement.
Naqvi said that for the first time in independent India, 1.75 lakh pilgrims will go to Haj without a subsidy, a rise from the 1.25 lakh that went for the annual pilgrimage last year.
The union minister said the government would save Rs 700 crore by stopping the subsidy, and would use the funds for education of minorities, particularly girls.
The decision to abolish Haj subsidy comes just a day after government allowed Muslim women above the age of 45 to go on the pilgrimage without a male guardian, in groups of at least four.
Naqvi also said that the Saudi Arabian government has in principle agreed to allow Haj journey from India by ships and officials of the two countries will sit together to finalise the modalities.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s Kamal Farooqui welcomed the move, saying that a wrong impression was being created that Muslims were gaining from the government aid. “Instead, it was national carrier Air India that was the biggest beneficiary of this government scheme,” he said.
The Centre had in May last year formed a six-member committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing subsidy given to pilgrims by 2022, sources said.
The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022. It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year then on the educational and social development of the community..