Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, on Tuesday, made an announcement that the Government has decided to withdraw the Haj subsidy stating that it believes in empowering the minorities with dignity, and not appeasement. “We believe in empowering without appeasement. Development with dignity is what we believe in. The Haj subsidy will be used for educating girls.” said Mr. Naqvi.
What is Haj subsidy?
Under the haj subsidy program, the government used to give discounts on Air India flight tickets to Haj pilgrims. Apart from that, the government also used to provide assistance to Haj pilgrims to reach specially designed Haj departure airport terminals along with other fooding and lodging facilities. The Haj subsidy program which originated in the British era, was later expanded by the government with the Haj Committee Act of 1959.
The supreme court in 2012 has ruled that the Haj subsidy is unconstitutional as well as inconsistent with the teachings of Quran, and said that it should be withdrawn gradually by 2022. Following the ruling, the government expenditure on such subsidy has decreased with every passing year. The government spent Rs 420 crore in the year 2016, which was reduced to Rs 225 crore in 2017 on cheaper air tickets.
In November 2017, a Central Haj Committee meeting decided that the Haj subsidy will be completely phased out in 2018 and the subsequent funds will be utilised for empowering minority girl children with various educational programmes. The government announced yesterday that Rs 700 crore will now be used for educational purposes of the children.
This move from the government has met with a lot of applause from all parts of the country. Navaid Hameed, president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat said he was happy with the decision and also that it was a long-awaited one. He also mentioned that the subsidy was often used as a tool to denounce the Muslim community. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also welcomed the move, but raised his concerns regarding the allotment of funds in the right way. He also asked the government to withdraw the financial support it aides to other pilgrimages like the Kumbh Mela and Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.