Mumbai: Veteran Congressman and Rajya Sabha member Husain Dalwai has urged the Centre to reduce the financial burden of this year's Haj pilgrims who will be required to spend around Rs.10,000 extra per head during the pilgrimage.
The additional spending will be on accommodation in Medina, Saudi Arabia and the traditional sacrifice (qurbani).
In a memorandum to Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, he referred to the additional charges sought by the Haj Committee for the ensuing Haj pilgrimage season, scheduled to start from the third week of September.
"The Haj Committee is supposed to facilitate the pilgrims and not to interfere in the religious process, by charging Saudi Riyal 490 (Rs.8,330) and SR 100 for accommodation in Medina," Dalwai said.
He termed the new condition and deduction as "unfair and tantamount to interference in the Islamic Sharia" and urged the ministers' intervention to scrap it immediately.
This year, an estimated 136,000 Muslim pilgrims from India are expected to perform the Haj pilgrimage and the additional amount of Rs.10,000 collected per pilgrim would total over a staggering Rs.113 crore, the Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra pointed out.
Expressing concern, Dalwai said that as per the Sharia, economically weaker Hajis who cannot afford the sacrifice (qurbani) can compensate by observing three fasts in Mecca and seven fasts after returning home.
But now the Haj Committee is compelling every pilgrim to pay this additional amount which is akin to collecting a 'Jazia Tax' from them.
"This is unfair, highly objectionable and anti-Sharia, besides amounting to a corrupt practice in a religious issue...I urge the ministers to immediately look into the matter as the process of filling Haj forms, etc has already begun," Dalwai urged.