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Phasing out of Haj subsidy from next year

New Delhi: From next year, i.e., 2011 Haj subsidy which is being given by the government to intending Hajis for their pilgrimage to Makka for the past four decades ever since they had started going there by air will be started phasing out gradually and by the next seven years it will be abolished completely. However, in order to provide financial help to poorer Hajis, rich and comparatively better-off intending Hajis will be required to pay an extra amount to subsidise the travel cost of less well-off Hajis. Ministry of external affairs is preparing a proposal on Haj Management Reforms in which it is suggested that government should stop subsidising all religious pilgrimages, including Haj, over the next seven years starting from next year.

According to the proposed reforms, rich and better-off pilgrims will have to pay 20% extra of the air fare in the first year and the remaining fares of lesser well-off hajis will be funded by the government. This extra amount or percentage will be raised gradually every year to its full cost in 7 years so that government’s responsibility of subsiding the air fares of pilgrims is brought to an end after seven years, according to an official of the external affairs ministry. Central Haj Committee will be required to make all arrangements for the Hajis in Saudi Arabia, including selection of airlines, fares, mob-demob i.e., mobilisation of intending Hajis to, and their demobilisation from, Saudi Arabia to India. This procedure will in the first instance be experimented for three years and if found successful, Haj Committee Act 2002 will be suitably amended. This proposal is said to be approved by the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet secretary. The said proposal is with the objective of abiding by the directives of the court because in August 2006 the Allahabad High Court had asked the central government not to subsidise Haj or any pilgrimage of any community except making administrative arrangements for ensuring law and order and people’s safety.

It may be stated in this connection that many Muslim leaders and ulama were, and are, not in favour of government subsidy because though Haj, at least once in lifetime, is compulsory for all Muslims from religious point of view, it is so for those who are able to perform it by their own halal income or their entire expenses are met by their close kins. It is not compulsory for those who are financially not in a position afford it.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2010 on page no. 19

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