A six-member committee set up to look into Haj Subsidy

14 Jan 2017 | Written by Ramya Patelkhana; Edited by NewsBytes Desk

The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs constituted a six-member committee comprising experts to look into the "efficacy and viability" of the Haj Subsidy.

The subsidy is given to Muslim Haj pilgrims in the form of discounted Air India fares.

However, the ministry clarified that the move doesn't mean the government is planning to scrap the subsidy, but to assess and approach the subject accordingly.

In context: Indian Government's Haj Subsidy

IntroductionAbout the Haj Subsidy

Haj Subsidy is given to Indian Haj pilgrims by the Indian government in the form of discounted Air India airfares; it was started in 1954.

The Haj traffic is shared by Air India and Saudia, the national carriers of India and Saudi Arabia.

The monopoly of these airlines is the most controversial part as some Muslims claimed Air India is the subsidy's real beneficiary.

Request to withdraw subsidy

Over the years, several Muslims, including some Muslim politicians, have requested the government to withdraw the subsidy as it is against Islam though it was beneficial. They instead suggested long-term agreements with airlines providing better facilities and cheaper fares.
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2012Eliminate Haj Subsidy within ten years: SC to Govt

The Supreme Court directed the government to eliminate the Haj Subsidy by 2022.

It stated: "The subsidy money may be more profitably used for uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development."

Adding it had no authority to speak on the community's behalf, it cited the Quran saying Haj pilgrimage was mandatory only for those who could afford the expenses.

Previous PilgrimagesOver 1.35 lakh pilgrims undertook Haj Yatra in 2015

For Haj-2016, Haj Committee of India charged around Rs.2,20,000 per pilgrim for expenses incurred on air travel, accommodation, local transportation in Saudi Arabia, food in Madinah etc. for those staying in Green Area and around Rs.1,85,000 for those in Azizia Area.

The airfare collected from each pilgrim was Rs.45,000.

In 2015, 1,35,000 pilgrims undertook the pilgrimage through HCOI and 35,000 through private tour operators.

14 Jan 2017A six-member committee set up to look into Haj Subsidy

QuotaSaudi Arabia raises India's Haj quota by 34,500

The Haj Subsidy issue has been a matter of debate for long; it had been dwelt upon even by the Congress-led UPA Government.

Now, the BJP-led NDA Government is looking into Haj Subsidy's viability and how it could be rationalized.

The subsidy is again in focus at a time when Saudi Arabia raised India's annual Haj quota by 34,500 making it around 1.7 lakh.

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SubsidyThe biggest increase after 1988 in the quota: Abbas Naqvi

Minority Affairs Junior Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government's decision was taken while signing the annual Haj agreement.

He added the increase in the quota of Indian Haj pilgrims is the biggest after 1988.

The Haj Subsidy includes an airfare subsidy and assistance for domestic travel to reach specially-designed Haj departure airport terminals.

However, pilgrims can avail the subsidy only once in lifetime.

Abbas Naqvi's statement

"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."

06 Apr 2017Haj subsidy 2017: Government grant drops by over 50%

With a drop of over 50% in Haj subsidy for 2017, pilgrims from Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Mumbai won't be covered under the scheme this year.

Against the expected subsidy of Rs. 380cr, the government sanctioned Rs. 200cr. In 2016, the amount was Rs. 408cr.

The last date for payment of the first instalment is April 13.

The subsidy is likely to end by 2022.