NEW DELHI: The Union ministry for minority affairs has set-up a six-member committee comprising experts to look into the efficacy and viablity of the haj subsidy given to Muslim haj pilgrims in the form of discounted air fares on Air India. The ministry has clarified that the setting up of this committee does not mean that the government has any plan to scrap the subsidy. The ministry sources affirmed that the intention was to make an assessment and approach the subject accordingly.
The haj subsidy issue has been a matter of debate for long and was dwelt upon by even the Congress-led UPA.
Now, the BJP-led NDA too is looking into the subsidy’s viability and how it may be rationalised. Back in 2012, the Supreme Court had directed the government to end the practice. Interestingly , the subisdy is in focus at a time when Saudi Arabia has increased India’s annual haj quota by 34,500 to take it to around 1.70 lakh.
unior minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the decision was taken during signing of the annual haj agreement. “It is the biggest increase after 1988 in the quota of haj pilgrims from India.About 99,903 people went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for haj from 21 embarkation points across India through Haj Committee of India during 2016. Apart from this, about 36,000 haj pilgrims had proceeded for haj through private tour operators,” Naqvi said.
The subsidy includes an airfare subsidy as well as assistance to pilgrims for domestic travel to reach specially designed haj departure airport terminals.