3 reasons why doing away with Haj subsidy is not a bad idea at all

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3 reasons why doing away with Haj subsidy is not a bad idea at all

The government's decision to end the Haj subsidy has drawn mixed reactions from different corners.

The Narendra Modi government has brought an end to Haj subsidy. The announcement was made by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi yesterday (Tuesday) who said that the subsidy money instead will be used for empowerment of Muslim girls.

The government's decision to end the Haj subsidy has drawn mixed reactions from different corners, with some like chairman of Shia Personal Law Board saying that "the poor who used to go to Haj will not do so now".

But, is doing away with the Haj subsidy really a bad idea?

# SUBSIDY WOULD HAVE GONE SOONER OR LATER

The Haj subsidy was anyway meant to go by 2022. The Supreme Court in a 2012 order directed the government to gradually phase out the Haj subsidy over a period of 10 years.

The Haj subsidy amount has gradually decreased from Rs 836.56 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 529.51 crore in 2015-2016 to Rs 405 crore in 2016-2017.

In October last year, the draft of a proposed Haj policy 2018-2022 was submitted to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. This draft policy, among other recommendations, suggested ending Haj subsidy for pilgrims.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that this year 1.75 lakh Muslims will go for Haj which is "more than when subsidy was offered"

# YOU ARE LIKELY TO SAVE ON AIRFARE

Many allege that the Haj subsidy on airfare was perhaps a way to keep Air India afloat and fares charged by the national carrier were inflated during Haj when compared against ticket prices on other private carriers for the same trip.

Haj pilgrims who go via the Haj Committee of India (HCoI) deposit a fixed amount decided on a year-to-year basis towards airfare to the committee and the balance fare is payable to airlines (essentially Air India) by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The airfare amount that each pilgrim pays to HCoI for the airfare has gone up from 28,000 in 2013 to 45,000 in 2016.

"In normal days, tickets for Saudi Arabia come for Rs 32,000 but during Haj, Air India used to charge Rs 65,000 to Rs 1 lakh from those going to Haj. The fare will be less without subsidy," said All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) general secretary Maulani Wali Rahmani.

# TRAVELLING BY SHIP ALSO AN OPTION

The draft policy submmitted to Naqvi last year also suggested sending Haj pilgrims by ship, a relatively cheaper option compared to flights.

This point was touched upon by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi yesterday and the Union minister said that Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow people to go to Haj by ship. Naqvi added that officials of India and Saudi Arabia are working out the details.

With cheaper modes of travel being suggested for Haj pilgrims, and the government planning to use the subsidy amount for Muslim empowerment, doing away with Haj subsidy is perhaps not a bad idea.

(with PTI inputs)

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