India ends annual hajj subsidy for Pilgrims
Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 17 January 2018| 29 Rabi ul Aakhir 1439
India’s Hindu nationalist government on Tuesday withdrew a decades-long policy of offering discounted airfares to Muslims embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage.
In a statement, Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government believes in “empowering the minority community with dignity and not appeasement”.
“Around 175,000 people will go to Hajj this year after Saudi Arabia increased India’s quota by 5,000. The Hajj subsidy will now be used for educational empowerment of girls of the minority community.”
The Supreme Court in 2012 had asked the government to abolish Hajj subsidy gradually by 2022.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress party has said they hope Modi government will honor the Supreme Court direction and utilize the money for the disempowered communities.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government wants to assist India’s roughly 175 million Muslims without resorting to political “appeasement” along religious lines.
“Development with dignity is what we believe in,” he said in announcing the decision to scrap the travel subsidy.
He said the cash saved from the scheme would be channeled into economic opportunities and education for Muslims, who make up about 14 percent of India’s 1.25 billion people.
“Government withdrew Hajj subsidy four years before date prescribed by the Supreme Court, we don’t have any issue… Let it be clear that Hajjis are not benefited by subsidy, airlines are,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, senior Congress leader was quoted as saying by ANI news agency.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a private body working to protect Muslims in India, has termed the government’s decision “discriminatory, unfair and undemocratic”.
“In real terms, subsidy was given to government-owned airlines and not to Muslims. Other communities were also getting benefits from the government,” Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, AIMPLB spokesperson, told Anadolu Agency.
Every year more than 100,000 pilgrims travel from India to the holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for a spiritual journey that every faithful Muslim strives to make at least once in their lifetime.