The centre, on Tuesday, announced that Indians will no longer receive Haj subsidies from this year. “This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement”, said Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. But although the BJP government withdrew the Haj subsidy, subsidies given to Hindu pilgrims still remain in place, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, points out.
The decision to withdraw the subsidy was the outcome of the Supreme Court’s order on this matter six years ago which recommended that the Haj subsidy be done away with by 2022. Since the court’s ruling, the government has gradually reduced the Haj subsidy each year. The government spent Rs. 420 crore in 2016 and Rs. 225 crore last year on cheaper air tickets.
“Muslims didn’t benefit from it. Development with dignity is what we believe in. The subsidy will be used for educating girls,” Mr Naqvi said. Government officials claim that the pilgrims actually did not benefit from the subsidy; instead it was the service provider, Air India that reaped the benefits from it.
Outlook magazine reported that while pilgrims were made to pay a “subsidised return airfare” of Rs 45,000, this was actually a rip-off as, if booked months in advance, the Delhi-Jeddah return fare stood at only around Rs 30,000. Therefore a decision was made to allocate the money towards education and other developmental measures for the minority community.
After the announcement to withdraw the subsidy, Asaduddin Owaisi attacked the Modi government and asked it to end its “Hindu appeasement politics.” He further said that the “Haj subsidy is merely Rs 200 crore. BJP called it appeasement. I ask BJP, the PM and RSS that if Muslim Haj subsidy is appeasement, what about Kumbh Mela?” In 2016 the Union Culture ministry set aside Rs 100 crore for the Simhastha Mahakumbh in Ujjain on top of state government’s allocated Rs 3,400 crore. Furthermore, Yogi Adityanath led government in Uttar Pradesh last year announced that it will spend a massive fund of Rs 2500 crore for the preparations of Ardh Kumbh mela shceduled to be held in 2019. This has raised eyebrows because of the BJP’s reputation of being excessively pro-Hindu.
The New Haj policy for 2018-2022 has not only proposed to abolish the Haj Subsidy but has also stated that women above 45 should be allowed to go on pilgrimage without a male partner. This comes after the recent attempts of the BJP government to abolish triple talaq. While such policies are progressive, it should be inclusive of all communities. Therefore the government should also cut down on the funds that are allocated towards organising Hindu festivities and pilgrimages to ensure equal treatment of all communities.