Education Must For All, Haj For Those Who Can Afford it, Says Rajiv Gandhi-Era Minister
The union minister said the government would save Rs 700 crore by stopping the subsidy.

New Delhi: Arif Mohammad Khan, former civil aviation minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government has welcomed the government’s move to scrap subsidy on Haj saying pilgrimage is only meant for those who can afford it, while education is a basic right.

Defending the government’s move to scrap Haj subsidy, Khan said, “Firstly, it should be made clear that Haj as a religious obligation is applicable only to well-off Muslims who can afford it.

For the first time since Independence, over 1.75 lakh pilgrims would go to Haj without any subsidies this year. This is a massive rise from last year’s 1.25 lakh pilgrims who went without any grant.

The Centre on Tuesday announced that the government would stop Haj subsidy and hence save Rs 700 crore, which would be used for the education of minorities, particularly girls.

Khan said, “I feel the announcement made by the government to use this money for education and especially for girls’ education is very significant and must be welcomed.”

He further added, “Islam makes education a priority and obligatory on the very first day of ordainment, whereas, Haj is prescribed only for the rich.”

Minority Affairs Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi made the announcement on Tuesday and said that the decision is in line with the government’s agenda to empower minorities without appeasement.

Minutes after the announcement, All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s Kamal Farooqui welcomed the move to say that a wrong impression was being created that Muslims were gaining from government aid.

A day after, Khan said, “I do not recall any demand made by any Muslim group to subsidize Haj. Giving subsidy to Haj pilgrims was a decision solely taken by the government. So the question of it earning a bad name for the community stands no ground.”

Last year, the Centre had formed a six-member committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing the grant by 2022.

The court had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore year on educational and social development of Muslims.

To this, Khan said, “I have every right to demand more and more educational facilities, but for Haj, I must only use my own resources.”