Muslims are not very perturbed by the decision of Narendra Modi government to scrap Haj subsidy. They have been demanding the government to scrap the subsidy and go for global tender that will help reduce the cost for Haj airfare. The sudden scrapping of the subsidy without devising an alternative mechanism may make things difficult for pilgrims this year. Corruption in Haj Committee and other departments will ensure that cost of pilgrimage will go up, if not adequate planning is put into this huge exercise.
Here are views of the community leaders on the issue:
Community leader and member of Lok Sabha, Maulana Asrarul haq Qasmi says “Muslims never demanded subsidy nor were they being benefitted from it. Nonetheless, the subsidy shouldn’t have been revoked without devising a workable formula to run it. Government and Haj Committee should work out a plan to reduce air fair through global tender. If government plans, it can bring down the cost of airfare substantially”
Intizar Nayim, an assistant secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and a well known poet said that Muslims neither demanded subsidy for Haj pilgrimage nor they sought it. Nonetheless, as the subsidy is given to people of different faiths there is no harm if Muslims too enjoy Haj subsidy. People are asking government to float open tenders and bring down cost for air ticket, this demand should be kept in mind and appropriate steps are taken in this regard”.
Syed Muhsin Taqwi said that the removal of haj subsidy will have no impact on Muslims. It was the government that was willingly providing subsidy. Muslims were not demanding it. Government was trying to show that Haj subsidy benefitted Muslims. But it was wrong. The government had an agenda of rescuing the national airline, Air India and not extending any benefit to Muslim pilgrims.
He went on to add that ‘Government should have removed the haj subsidy a long time ago. While the decision has come late, it is a good decision as the subsidy was giving a tool to anti-Muslim elements to defame them. When a haji wants to go for pilgrimage, there is no expectation of subsidy. he goes to Haj for purely religious purpose and wants to bear his entire expenses.
Rajya Sabha MP and senior Congress leader Ahmad Patel says, “While I welcome the implementation of the Supreme Court’s order, I would like to point out that the Hon’ble Supreme Court had also mandated that the savings accrued from the gradual reduction – to eventual elimination in 10 years – in the Haj subsidy must be deployed towards socio-economic welfare of the community”.
“I sincerely hope that this reduction in outlay by nearly Rs 200 crore has been matched by an increased investment in the welfare of the community, as mandated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. I hope that the Ministry has implemented the guidelines of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in letter and spirit and if possible share details of such expenditure,” Patel added.
Maulana Wali Rahmani said, a leading All India Muslim Personal Law Board member says, “The subsidy was not given to those going on Haj but it was for Air India that is running in losses. It was an eyewash. Muslims were cheated in the name of the subsidy…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 for Haj. The fare will be less without subsidy…Haj-bound Muslims are bulk purchasers of Air India tickets and so their fare should be less. It’s rule of International Air Transport Association that if anyone is going for pilgrimage, he will be given 40% discount. If the fare is not less, it should at least the same as on normal days”.