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Updated: May 9, 2012 11:39 IST

Eliminate Haj subsidy in 10 years: court

    Vijetha S.N
    Mohammad Ali
Comment (33)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Haj pilgrims filling the applications at a Regional Passport Office at Secunderabad. File photo
The Hindu Haj pilgrims filling the applications at a Regional Passport Office at Secunderabad. File photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to gradually reduce the amount of subsidies being given to Haj pilgrims so that within 10 years it is eliminated, and the money is used for the “uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development.”

“We have no doubt that a very large majority of Muslims applying to the Haj Committee would not be aware of the economics of their pilgrimage. And if all the facts are made known, a good many of the pilgrims would not be very comfortable in the knowledge that their Haj is funded to a substantial extent by the government,” said a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai, before quoting a passage from the Holy Koran.

The court observed that the Haj subsidies had been rising every year, with the increase in air fare and pilgrims.

“We are of the view that Haj subsidy is something that is best done away with,” the Bench said.

The Bench agreed that the subsidy was constitutionally valid but it was very firm that there was no justification for charging the pilgrims a much lower price than even the normal air fares usually charged for a return ticket to Jeddah.

The court also ordered an end to the practice of sending a goodwill Haj delegation.

Leaders hail verdict

There was near-unanimity among the leaders of the political class in welcoming the verdict, with a few even demanding immediate scrapping of the subsidy and suggesting use of the money for the educational needs of Muslims.

“Why wait for 10 years to scrap it. It should be done away with this year itself, because it does not benefit the pilgrims. In the name of giving subsidy, the government has been fooling people till now, for, it has been investing the money in Air India,” said Asaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), an ally of the UPA.

Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The BJP welcomes the verdict but we are of the opinion that the government should continue to help out the pilgrims with basic services.”

There was no need to club the educational needs of Muslims with the Haj subsidy. “The government should try to implement the schemes for providing scholarship to Muslim girls, which are not getting properly implemented in the first place.”

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said giving subsidy to any community was a policy decision and the Central government needed to explain its position.

“There have been several court verdicts against the policy decisions of the government and it is for the government to explain,” Mr. Raja said.

Referring to Law Minister Salman Khurshid's reaction that the government was considering the Haj subsidy and discussions had taken place for its rollback, Mr. Raja said this was a “vague” stand.

Zafarul Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella organisation of several Muslim groups, said: “The so-called Haj subsidy is of no use to the pilgrims. We never asked for it.”

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@Hemnath
Three cheers to you. Some others have also expressed similar views. I estimate that the expense on Haj subsidy (i.e., subsidised air travel plus other benefits, plus organizational charges etc) will be roughly Rs.12,000 CR in the next ten years. If the subsidy is stopped now, this amount will be saved. If the govt is sincere, it can do it immediately: Court's suggestion is just that, a SUGGESTION, not an order to continue the subsidy for ten years.

from:  witan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 22:19 IST

Article 27 of the Constitution says: "No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination." Therefore, it is difficult to understand how the Supreme Court could order or suggest that the money be used for the "uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development." In my humble opinion, the money should be used for the welfare of the country as a whole.

from:  witan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 19:29 IST

Article 27 of the Constitution says: "No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination." Therefore, it is difficult to understand how the Supreme Court could order or suggest that the money be used for the "uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development." In my humble opinion, the money should be used for the welfare of the country as a whole.

from:  WITAN
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 18:55 IST

Hajj is for those who could afford it but for airindia such pilgrimage is cash cow to milk it. Brother Raman its not some business for airindia but total captive business of each and every pilgrim going from hajj committee at airindia's dictated exhorbitant fares. Its a cash injection in bulk in one go for carrier. Its imperative that tender open to all carriers is called for airfares. Huge number of confirmed pilgrims will result in competitive airfare - better services from participating carriers. Same way tender be also flouted for accommodation for such number of pilgrims which will result in fair rentals. These will result in real saving for the pilgrims. Brother Raman, About huge expenses incurred by governments on melas, yatras - the like its well in our midst to understand about it. Nevertheless I join you in requesting different governments incurring expenses on such yatras, melas to place the figures before respective assemblies and in parliament.

from:  Mohajir
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 18:41 IST

It is to be noted that SC has upheld that subsidy was constitutionally valid & took the cue from Quranic verse 'Verse-97 in Surah-3' of the holy Quran. The Honorable bench said according to the verse, the Haj pilgrimage is only permitted to those who can afford the expenses for 'one's conveyance and provision for residence' in Mecca. "We, therefore, direct the Central government to progressively reduce the subsidy so as to completely eliminate it within a period of 10 years from today".

from:  Mohajir
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 17:21 IST

Sensible decision. This should have come long back. Accepting subsidies to go to Haj Pilgrimage goes against the very spirit, as has been noted by other commentators too, of the directives given in this context, in the sacred text.

from:  Murtuza
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 16:48 IST

In 2007 the Haj subsidy paid by the Indian government was 595 crore (US$118.7 million), and for 2008 it was 770 crore (US$153.62 million).[2] Since 1994 the round trip cost to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has been fixed at 12,000 (US$239.4) per pilgrim, and the government has footed the rest of the bill. In 2007 the government spent 47,454 (US$946.71) per passenger.[3] In the year 2009 the cost was 826 crore (US$164.79 million). Dear Mohajir, I have cut and pasted the above para. No doubt AI gets some business but the pilgrims too benefit. The round trip has been fixed at Rs. 12000/- Pl. give the details of subsidy given to mela's,jatra's and yatra's.

from:  Raman V.R
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 16:11 IST

I trust the Supreme Court will also ask the government to stop spending tax payer money in making special arrangements for accommodation, special train and bus services as well as elaborate security arrangements for Kumbh Mela, Ardh Kumbh and Mahamaham. The argument that the money can be better spent in the uplift of the community applies as much to the Hindus as it does to the Muslims.

from:  Cato R Natarajan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 15:22 IST

As a Muslim I strongly support elimination of the subsidy. Islam does not require those who cannot afford it to make the haj. Besides the haj is a colossal waste, Muslims waste 500 billion rupees world wide on this man made ritual. We Muslims should sieze this opportunity to reform and de-Arabize Islam. Other reforms needed: Banish polygamy, wife beating, child marriage, unequal inheritance rights for women, unequal divorce and marriage rights for women ( triple talaaq), the harmful roza during Ramzan( let us skip the evening meal instead and drink water during the day and night).

from:  Ali Muhammad
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 15:20 IST

Under the pretext of subsidy money is going to airindia not to pilgrims, we welcome striking down of so said subsidy, we want it to be stopped immediately, why wait for a period of ten years? It is airindia which benefitted from it & not a single pilgrim all these years. Its high time tender is floated for airfare, airlines stands to get 100,000 plus passengers in one go each year just for hajj. Tender will result in competitive fare for the pilgrims & their travel expenses will get reduced & will result in fair savings for the pilgrims & better service from selected / participating airlines.
Its high time Airindia express its gratitude to pilgrims for the captive business volume from hajj all these years. Tender should also be floated for accomodation during hajj which will further add to the saving of pilgrims & reduce the hajj expenses Hopefully this could be an icebreaker for doing away with the subsidies, expenses incurred by Government on melas, jatra, yatras & the like.

from:  Mohajir
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 11:56 IST

The Supreme Court has been pragmatic in deciding to do away with the
subsidy. Clearly, the money would be better spent in other areas which
would be of 'real' help to our Muslim brothers. The facade of the Govt.
shall finally collapse.

from:  Tushar Chandra
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 11:48 IST

I would say why ten years remove it immediately. Haj is one of the
four pillars( Fasting,Praying 5 times/day,mandatory charity/year on
your savings and Haj) in Islam. Haj is not a compulsory obligation as
the other three pillars but a most preferred deed. Moreover the money
spent on Haj pilgrimage should be 100% pure money ( money not earned
from bribes and other similar ways which are prohibited in Islam).

Therefore I completely agree with Supreme Court decision.
On the other hand please stop accusing Muslim as vote bank. It the
political parties who are playing this game and has to nothing to do
with Muslims as a community.

from:  Amir Khan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 11:19 IST

An excellent judgement by our Supreme Court.Only education can uplift the nation people in every walk of life. A Govt, must think first from where money comes i.e. from income tax. A income tax money must be spent on welfare of poor and uneducated people so that they can uplift there life to help the nation.Subsidies to any religious function for any community is dangerous sign for national integrity.All kinds of religious subsidies must be stop right now.

from:  Uday Arun
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 10:36 IST

Hajj is an important pilgrimage for Muslims and one of the five pillars of Islam. Every Muslim wishes to perform hajj once in a lifetime. The decision by Supreme Court can be viewed in different ways. The Hajj subsidy can be utilized effectively for the upliftment of the community by providing it in the form of education loans for the poor students. Education can result in Numerous Hajj pilgrimage. However, the basic requirements for Hajj pilgrimage must be supported by the Government, without alienating Muslims.

from:  Roeas
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 09:42 IST

The Haj subsidy was introduced to compensate the loss to pilgrims in not allowing travel by ship to Makkah. Muslims never asked for it....In fact according to many reports the subsidy is not subsidy at all..Pilgrims can charter planes and get considerable discount. It is good that the Supreme Court has come out with a verdict in accordance with the demand made by the Muslim community leaders. Many have welcomed it. The pity is that Muslims never demanded the so called subsidy.......In fact they have been asking its removal..........and thank God it is to be removed.The S/C says let the government remove it gradually in 10 years. Many Muslim leaders say: why 10 years? It should be removed immediately.

from:  V.M. Khaleelur Rahman
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 07:35 IST

Good decision but Why wait for 10 years ? It should have been
wiped clean right now and the money saved should have gone to help
educating the community.

from:  P.Tauro
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 07:34 IST

I beg to differ. We had right & left governments at center, but no one ever cancelled this subsidy. So, politically, this subsidy is desirable & acceptable. Please note that, Indian secularism is not about non-interference in religious issues. In fact, our governments ensure Yatra, Kumbha Melas etc are provided with facilities & security. Agree that there is Yatra Tax - but it is very negligible in front of what government actually spends for these activities. Haj subsidy should be provided transparently rather scrapping it altogether. Poor should be given preference.

from:  Mahesh J
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:41 IST

A good decision by the Supreme Court. The government should comply with the order. This will stop other communities from accusing the government of appeasing Muslims. From a religious point of view too, Haj subsidy is Haram. Islam says a Muslim should perform Haj once in his or her lifetime if the person is physically fit and can afford it. So do Haj only if you can withstand the rigors of the pilgrimage and pay for it through your hard-earned money. Else it is not incumbent on you, period.

from:  Iqbal Khan
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:29 IST

Anything done for religious cause is good - but why not the muslim community donate for people going to Haj instead of asking the nation - since other communities will do the same - to me religion is in the heart and from wherever you are its possible to reach and communicate with our Creator !! all these old rules favouring many communities has to be discussed and new laws need to be replaced for all sections to benefit.

from:  Paul
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:27 IST

Not only this but ALL public religious endownments should also be done away with. ALL religious personal laws should also be done away with and replaced by the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" as passed by the UN general assembly in 1948.

from:  Sridhar
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:15 IST

Haj subsidy to whom?
New Delhi to Jeddah in off season fare --25000 rs per head
New Delhi to Jeddah haj time fare 50000 rs per head
Govt of India has granted approx 35000/- rs per head last year.
In fact many Muslims are demanding the annulment of subsidy because it
is not benefiting Muslims but at the same time generating lot of heat.
Providing a tool in the hand of communal force for political gains.

Instead of selectively scraping Haj subsidy, SC should go one step
further and ban all kind of subsidies for religious tourism.
While talking about "hard earned tax money wasted to appeasement
Muslim vote bank" one should not forget that similar type of subsidies
are also provided to Hundu and Sikh population for their pilgrimage.

from:  Rameez Mehar
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:14 IST

Hindu's make majority of India's population. there is no subsidy or any
sort of allowances for visiting Hindu pilgrimage places like
Varanasi,Haridwaw,Sabarimala etc where there are lakhs and lakhs of
pilgrims visiting each day,why should the government care to give huj
subsidy? it is simply to get votes from muslims.not only Hindus,
Christians,Sikhs,Jains,Jews,Buddhists are also tax payers..why should a
sum from their money be spent for huj?

from:  ranjini
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:09 IST

Haj subsidy has always been a misnomer, it was not subsidy in real sense. However, it is better to be done away with, 10 years is a long time, it must be scrapped with immediate effect.

For the muslims, Haj is not mandatory unless each of them can 'afford' it. Therefore no need for monetary tokens, spend the so called subsidy amount on education of minorities. The wealthy will do Hajj even if it costs a million rupees.

from:  Ammar
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:07 IST

Why do we need 10 years to do away with a policy that we don't want? Why can't it be implemented with immediate effect? Is there a rational for giving 10 years or just that the court doesn't want to face immediate wrath of interested parties?
In ten years so many things can change and hence this judgement doesn't serve any purpose for now.

from:  Hemnath
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 15:06 IST

A timely intervention by the Supreme Court indeed.By avoiding to
disclose the amount of subsidies for the year 2012,the Govt. admits it
is quite huge.Subsidies to any religious function for that matter, in a
secular country like India is uncalled for,what with the same amount can
be gainfully spent on welfare schemes for the poor and the
downtrodden.By appeasing to a certain community for the vote bank
politics, it is neither helping itself in the long run, nor doing
something beneficial for the unity of the nation as a whole.

from:  Capt.S.P.Bhanja
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:55 IST

The committe is another tool for politicians to loot money just like public sector entities . how can we be sure that no scam has happened in this area . everywere there are subsisdies theer are scams galore. maybe we shoud name our country scamdia instead of india .no wonder that public sectors runs losses due to politicos at the helm .Failure of socialism in India is due to scams and politicians.

from:  anil
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:54 IST

A much needed decision on another subsidy given which could have been
better utilized for elevating the condition of living of the poor in
India or could have been used for education and healthcare reforms.

from:  Abhijit
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:48 IST

Sir
It is a welcome decision from Supreme court. It is a well known fact
that Haj is only Farz on those people who can afford it by their hard
earned and honestly earned money. Haj subsidy is only harming the pious
Haj and encouraging non serious people to go on Haj. After Haj There is
no change in the behaviour and life of these people.

from:  Rizwan Ali
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:32 IST

It is difficult to understand the logic of subsidizing Haj which is meant for those Muslims who can afford the finance and are healthy enough to withstand the the rigor of the journey. It is a common site to see frail and debilitated Indian pilgrims languishing in Hospitals in Makkah, Mina and Arafat. It is again not uncommon to see Indian pilgrims collecting charity from different places and sources or borrow money to perform Haj. It is also common practice to see persons who have already performed the obligatory Haj, doing Haj again and again denying the chance to their brethren waiting to perform their obligatory Haj. Why should members who are wealthy and healthy enough to afford Haj on their own be sent in goodwill delegation at goevernment expense?

from:  Syed
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:26 IST

I totaly agree to this judgement. Why should only one community get subsidy where no one else get it ?
also this do not benifit muslims also. it is mostly govarnment friends who go to Haj because of subsidy. Common man suffer alwyays.

10 years is very long time :( close this system from tomorrow. how supreme court allow bad practise for 10 years ???? Supreme court very slow :(

from:  Hajee Mohammed
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:25 IST

Very well said by supreme court. It should not be the responsibility of the citizens of this country to fund for a few chosen people going for HAJ. This subsidy does not solve any social issue in our country. The only purpose is the apeasement of Muslim population to generate the vote bank. This government must be bashed for doing such a misuse of our hard money tax money.

from:  siddesh
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 14:02 IST

Muslims are tax-payers and rightful citizens too. Thus must be entitled to
subsidies. Making more than one trip could be to accompany persons who are
differently able or of poor health members within families or communities.
Surely, such reasons be considered when granting further trips.

from:  rajagopal raman
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 13:52 IST

Good that the Court has passed such judgement. It will end the heart burn among other communities for such religious based subsidies. The state should ban all funding to religious based programmes for all communities. The definition of Secular state is which remains neutral to religious matters not displaying equal amount of psychofrenzia to every religion.

from:  krishna
Posted on: May 8, 2012 at 13:44 IST
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