Foreign minister S M Krishna on Monday said the Centre is having
"second thoughts" on continuing the Haj subsidy. The minister said
this while addressing questions from reporters on whether a
similar package will be granted to Christians visiting holy lands.
Reacting to reports that there are plans to provide similar
packages to Christian pilgrims, Krishna said the government is
planning to do away with the subsidy for Haj pilgrims, adding that
the change would be part of reforms that are taking place.
"There have been second thoughts
even with reference to Haj. Haj reforms are taking place and this
aspect will also form part of the reforms," he said, adding the
government was seriously looking into it.
"We are eventually thinking of doing away with subsidy content.
Large numbers of Muslim organisations want to abolish the subsidy
concept for Haj," Krishna said.
But he did not specify which Muslim
organizations had made this demand and what is the time-frame for
the review. Interestingly, Krishna made these observations in the
presence of the MoS for external affairs and the Indian Union
Muslim League leader E Ahmed.
Many Muslim NGOs in the past have
asserted that the community is not benefited from the subsidy
given in the name of Haj. Instead the government traveler Air
India gets the maximum benefits from it.
They are also of the view that if
the government is calling open tenders from airlines to carry
Hajis to Saudi Arabia, it would be much cheaper than what Hajis
are paying today.
In 2008, the Andhra Pradesh
Government had doled out a travel subsidy plan for Christian
pilgrimage, drawing flak from the opposition as pandering to a