The Haj subsidy for thousands of Muslims who go on Haj pilgrimage each year was scrapped on Wednesday.With the announcement, the Haj pilgrims will no longer be able to avail facilities like airfare subsidy as well as assistance to Muslim pilgrims for domestic travel to reach specially designed Haj departure airport terminals, meal, medical care and lodging assistance provided by the government. The subsidy itself is nothing but an eyewash. Outlook magazine reported that while pilgrims were made to pay a “subsidized return airfare” of Rs 45,000, this was actually a rip-off since if booked well in advance, the Delhi-Jeddah return fare stood at only around Rs 30,000. So who was the subsidy meant for: those going on Haj or Air India?
“I am pleased with being the first one to raise voice, against an ongoing malpractice and exposing a high profile racket. I am proud of pelting the first stone, at the Satan.” These are the words of Dr. Muzaffar Husain Syed in Urdu.
Today, as a fashion, everybody is opposing the so-called Haj subsidy, in his or her chosen way, and again without knowing or trying to know the basic facts.First of all, let’s endeavor to realize, what Haj Subsidy is; in the common sense of the very word, a subsidy is a financial aid or at best a compensatory amount to make some fee or price, affordable, for the consumers. In this case, the Government of India subsidizes the price of the air ticket for Haj pilgrims, taking a flight to Saudi Arabia, by Air India. A petty amount of Rs. Ten thousand or so is sanctioned by the government for every pilgrim, flying for Haj. But, in practice, this amount is not directly paid to the travelers but transferred to Air India. Truly speaking, this monetary assistance is meant at reducing the burden of Air India and not of the pilgrims, which is commonly believed.
In our national capital, corridors of power, are nowadays echoing, once again with an unending discussion, regarding Haj Subsidy. Few people know what exactly Haj Subsidy is; or what are its pros and cons?
Muslims have never asked for any sort of subsidy, for their annual pilgrimage of holy shrines and nor any Muslim leader did ever raise a demand, in this regard.
One thing to be noted is that Air India is the only option for the Haj pilgrims, to take a flight to Saudi Arabia, for performing the annual pilgrimage, through various Haj Committees. It should once again be stressed that such a monetary help, doled out by the government goes to the coffers of the official air carrier and not to the pockets of the pilgrims, as the popular impression may be. The BJP Government, led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had limited the provision of Haj subsidy to poor pilgrims only. But, once Congress returned to power in 2004, the new government lifted the restriction, and subsidy, as earlier, was made equally available to all pilgrims.
Haj is a sort of worship, compulsory for only those Muslims, who can afford it—wealthwise and healthwise—and that too once, in a lifetime only. Needless to say that a person, being capable of taking up such an expensive tour, would hardly mind to secure or save a little amount, in question.
Here’s how some people reacted on Twitter soon after the announcement.
@asadowaisi: “#Haj Subsidy this year it is 200 crore & it would have been phased out by 2022 as per Supreme Court order, since 2006 I have been demanding that should be removed & used for Muslim girls education upliftment”
@bukharishujaat: “Withdrawing the #Hajj subsidy is a welcome decision by the government. It should have been done away with long ago. No need for subsidy to perform a personal obligation.”
@shahid_siddiqui: I have been demanding the end to Haj subsidy for a long time. Welcome, move. Indian Muslims need no subsidy but demand their rights as equal citizens of Democratic India.
@irenaakbar: Dear BJP, kindly do not ‘empower’ us by removing Haj subsidy. Dear Congress, kindly recall that we never asked you to ‘appease’ us with Haj subsidy. Dear both, kindly leave us alone and focus on development. Sincerely, Indian Muslim
@syedmohammedd: Have spoken to a lot of people in the past couple of hours. Most of them have said that scrapping the subsidy is a good thing, The issue of open tenders is being spoken about. Also, that haj is mandatory on only those who can afford to make the pilgrimage. #Hajj #HajSubsidy
@Jehangir_Inayat: Hajj subsidy for Indian pilgrims = Rs 650 crore. Subsidy per pilgrim Rs 43k. Return airfare for Hajj flight (ex-Delhi by @airindiain) = Rs 73k. Ticket cost by Saudi airlines = Rs 28K.Difference in fare= Rs 45k. That’s where subsidy went all these years @naqvimukhtar
@listenshahid: Withdrawal of #Haj subsidy is a welcome step. Subsidy defeats the purpose of Pilgrimage.
Let’s use it on education.
@tanzysiddiqui: Well its good they have ended #hajj subsidy. Hopefully they will use the money on right direction