The central government has reduced the airfares for the Haj pilgrims by Rs 20,000 to Rs 97,000, little over a month after it cancelled the subsidy for the Muslims aspiring to undertake their journey to Mecca.
Union Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that it was a “major step” that would end the “political and economic exploitation of Haj performers.
“The PMO took a keen interest in this (bringing down the rates). The decision is in line with our empowerment without appeasement policy,” Naqvi was quoted by PTI. The government made available details of the 2014 airfares to highlight the price difference. The 18-49 per cent reduction in rates will be available on tickets for Jeddah and Medina on national carrier Air India, Saudia and Flynas, an air carrier based in Saudi Arabia. T
Pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir appear to be the biggest beneficiaries since they will enjoy the reduction of Rs 97,000 in their airfares. Their airfares are almost being halved. A round ticket from the valley would cost Rs 1,98,350 in 2014. This will now come down to Rs Rs 1,01,400.
Pilgrims from Varanasi will avail the least benefits as their tickets will be cheaper by only Rs 20,000– from Rs 1,12,300 to Rs 92,004. The Supreme Court had in 2012 asked the government to abolish the Haj subsidy gradually by 2022.
In January this year, the Centre’s Narendra Modi government had announced it was doing away with the Haj subsidy. In 2012, the government gave a Haj subsidy of Rs 836.56 crore. The notional saving on account of reducing the subsidy from 2013 to 2017 was Rs 636.56 crore.
Moments after the Centre’s Narendra Modi government announced the withdrawal of Hajj subsidy, AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi had posed three questions to the BJP governments both at the Centre and in states.
In a series of tweets, Owaisi had asked, “Haj Subsidy BJP /RSS had called It appeasement,vote Bank Pol my Qs to BJP will you bring a Bill in parliament remove Article 290A of Constitution,Will BJP Tell Yogi govt to stop 800 crore for pilgrimage to Ayodhya,Kashi,Mathura 1.5 lakh to each Manasarovar yatri? (sic)”
Owaisi and many other pundits had highlighted the glaring hypocrisy of the Modi government in its discriminatory treatment of minorities against other faiths, Hindus in particular. In September 2017, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had announced a cash assistance of Rs one lakh to any healthy individual, who wished to travel to Kailash Mansarovar.
Under Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana, both Delhi and Madhya Pradesh governments have been providing subsidy to various pilgrimages for senior citizens and their attendants. MP is the only state that subsidises travel to holy places in Pakistan (Nankana Saheb Shrine and Hinglaj Mata temple), China (Kailash Man Sarovar), Cambodia (Angkor Vat) and Sri Lanka (Sita Mandir and Ashok Vatika), reported Outlook.
Governments in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand provide money to residents going on the Manasarovar yatra to cover a part of the expenses, which amount to about Rs 1.5 lakh each, the report by Outlook further added.