Haj subsidy to be phased out next year

File photo of relatives sending off their kin to Haj pilgrimage.  

Haj subsidy borne by the government and extended to pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia could be phased out as early as 2018. The subsidy was to be phased out after a Supreme Court order recommended the same to the government in 2012, with 2022 as the outer limit.

A meeting of the review committee on the subsidy and Haj services, comprising senior officials of the Ministries for Minority Affairs, Civil Aviation and External Affairs and the Haj Committee of India, was held on Thursday where the decision was announced.

2022 deadline

The Haj Committee reportedly asked for a phasing out with the 2022 deadline in mind saying it would affect pilgrims from small towns.

Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi confirmed that the phase out would be as early as 2018, with the subsidy reduced to “almost nil” from the ₹450 crore being spent this year.

“The decision is in consonance with the Supreme Court order. The subsidy has been progressively reduced since 2012 and we are looking to phase it out completely by 2018. We would like to spend the funds on educational programmes especially for girl children of the minority community. Subsidy is only one aspect of the government’s responsibility with regard to Haj, we are committed to a more transparent and open system for sending pilgrims and their safety and security while they perform the pilgrimage,” the Minister told The Hindu.

He also said that a new Haj policy had been almost finalised and would be made available to the court and the public soon.

He added that it was in the Modi government’s regime that Haj quota for India was increased by the Saudi Arabian government by 34,000.

The Mnistry for Minority Affairs had constituted a five member panel headed by former Secretary, minority affairs, Afzal Amanullah in January this year to formulate a new Haj policy in the light of the Supreme Court’s 2012 order.

Among the recommendations was reducing the Haj subsidy to nil by 2018, allowing women without a male relative/escort/ mehram to undertake the Haj and to reduce embarkation points for Haj from 22 to nine airports which had flights to Saudi Arabia.

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Printable version | Jan 13, 2021 5:00:59 AM |

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