The Supreme Court order directing the Centre to gradually reduce and eliminate the policy of subsidising Haj pilgrims in 10 years has evoked mixed reactions from various Muslim groups in the State, where over 4,000 pilgrims avail of the subsidy every year. Besides, around 600 people undertake the pilgrimage through private arrangements.
Vehement opposition to the Supreme Court direction came from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) MLA M.H. Jawahirullah who described the subsidy as a “right” and not a “concession.”
“When sea voyage was dispensed with and air transport was introduced, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came forward to compensate the difference in the travel amount. Therefore, you cannot call it a concession,” Prof Jawahirullah said.
He said contrary to the common perception, Haj trips and the subsidy by the government had actually helped the national airline Air India as it was allowed to carry more passengers in a flight in the absence of cargo.
Asked about the argument that getting subsidy for Haj was against the tenets of Islam, Mr. Jawahirullah said in the present case it was misinterpreted since it was a facility offered by a government to its citizen.
K.M. Khader Mohideen, president of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who also took exception to the court order, argued that the word “subsidy” was unacceptable to him.
“It was only a concession for air travel. Muslims do not need subsidy to take Haj pilgrimage as it is against edicts of Islam. No one is going to get upset over the court direction. But my question was why it should be stopped after it was given all these years. We began reservation for the scheduled castes and tribes only for ten years, but are we not still continuing with it?” he said.
However, S. Sheik Dawood, president, Tamil Maanila Muslim League, welcomed the judgement, contending that Muslims knew well that Haj pilgrims could not depend on others for money or subsidy.
“Who receives the money is a mystery, and only the Centre and those who took the subsidy for the pilgrimage know the answer. It is beyond the understanding of the poor and it is for the Centre to come out with an explanation,” he said, alleging that middlemen and airlines benefited by the scheme.
Another person who welcomed the court's order was A. Faizur Rahman, secretary general, Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought.
“It is a most welcome judgement and the subsidy for Haj was totally uncalled for,” he said, explaining that the pilgrimage was meant only for the financially well off and there was no obligation on the poor to undertake the pilgrimage.
Mr. Rahman said the amount should be diverted for social causes of Muslims, and to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.
“One area that deserves funding is education. Instead of sending a poor Muslim on a pilgrimage, the amount can be spent for his children's education,” he argued.
A. Aboobucker, chairman of the All India Haj Committee, said as a citizen of the country, he would implement the instruction of the Supreme Court with due respect.
“In the meantime we will call for global tenders to make arrangements for the pilgrims,” he said.