New Delhi: Finally, the Narendra Modi on Tuesday decided to relieve the Muslims of the burden of Haj subsidy - which instead of benefitting the community was actually utilized by Air India for its survival.
“There will be no subsidy for Haj from this year”, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said while talking to reporters on Tuesday.
While making public the Modi government’s decision to end the Haj subsidy, Naqvi admitted that it never benefited the Haj pilgrims.
“Muslims didn't benefit from it (Haj subsidy)”, Naqvi said.
However despite the popular belief that the Haj subsidy amount was actually paid to India’s national carrier Air India on which it survived for years, Naqvi made a bizarre claim that the amount saved by ending the subsidy will be used for education of girls.
“Development with dignity is what we believe in. The subsidy will be used for educating girls," Naqvi said.
Naqvi also said that the Modi government believes "in empowerment without appeasement”, but did not elaborate what he meant by “appeasement” as for decades, Haj subsidy remained a whip in the hands of right-wing parties to attack political rivals.
The dole – nothing more than a sleight of hand by the government – was used by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindutva outfits to target opposition by accusing them of “appeasing” Muslims by subsiding expenses involved in the Haj pilgrimage. Angered by these attacks, several Muslims have been demanding an end to the subsidy.
Instead of providing subsidies, the Haj committee, an autonomous body under the Indian government responsible for making arrangement for Haj pilgrimage, should be revamped, the community leader have always demanded.
The Muslims have also been slamming the Haj subsidy, accusing Air India of overcharging.
"Just because they have a monopoly, a Delhi to Jeddah ticket costs us Rs.45,000 whereas Saudi Arabian airlines' ticket costs only Rs.22,000. Where is the money going? ... in the pockets of Air India," they said.
Also, contrary to the general perception that the Indian government spends huge amounts for the Haj pilgrims every year, the Haj Committee of India said it managed the expenses of its central office and State/UT Haj Committees using the money collected from pilgrims and Haj aspirants.
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