Key elements of the Supreme Court
order Tuesday on removing the Haj subsidy in the next 10 years:
Economics of the pilgrimage
"This court has no claim to speak
on behalf of all the Muslims of the country and it will be
presumptuous for us to try to tell the Muslims what is for them a
good or bad religious practice."
"Nevertheless, we have no doubt that a very large majority of
Muslims applying to the Haj Committee for going to Haj would not
be aware of the economics of their pilgrimage and if all the facts
are made known a good many of the pilgrims would not be very
comfortable in the knowledge that their Haj is funded to a
substantial extent by the government."
Cost of Subsidy
The Haj subsidy in the past 19 years increased
from Rs.10.51 crore in 1994 to Rs.685 crore in 2011 on account of
increase in Haj pilgrims and the hike in the cost of travel. In
1994, the Haj subsidy was Rs.17,000 per person which has gone upto
Rs.54,800 in 2011. The number of pilgrims going for Haj in 1994
was as low as 21,035 which rose to 125,000 in 2011.
The court noted that normally the airfare from India to Jeddah is
Rs.25,000 but it increases on account of the Saudi Arabian
government's policy that planes flying the Hajis would return with
Therefore, the government charges reasonable fare from the
pilgrims and the additional fare charged because of the Haj
specific logistics is paid by the government to the airline.
During the Haj of 2011, each pilgrim was charged Rs.16,000 towards
airfare and the additional amount of Rs.38,000 per Haji is what is
Goodwill Haj delegation
The primary purpose of sending the
goodwill delegation, according to the government is "to convey
goodwill on the auspicious occasion of Haj to the government of
Saudi Arabia as well as to the Indian pilgrims".
The delegation interacts with the Haj pilgrims from India,
understands their issues and takes up the same with the Saudi
India first sent a goodwill delegation in 1967 with three members.
Till 1987, the number of its members remained under 10.
Thereafter, the size of the delegation started steadily increasing
and in 1997 it had 31 members.
In 2005, there were 36 members in the delegation, in 2010 there
were 30 and in 2011 its strength marginally shrunk to 27.
The court noted that the government's affidavit did not disclose
any criteria or guidelines on the basis of which people were
selected for being included in the goodwill delegation.
"On the basis of the material brought to our notice, we have no
doubt that the way people are nominated as members of the goodwill
delegation is in complete violation of Article 14 of the
It is no secret that after the 1965 war, Pakistan tried to use
even the Haj pilgrimage for anti-India propaganda and the purpose
of sending the goodwill delegation was to meet the anti-India
The reason for which the delegation was first sent has long ceased
to exist...in the changed circumstances the delegation serves
other objects and purpose.