Its time for Hajj and Hajj subsidy is again in news .All these years,I have been deluded to think that Hajj Subsidy is a great privilege or discount from the government..Further reading into this a few days ago,made me really shocked to know that this is merely a political gimmick and that the real drama behind this ‘subsidy’ is all about vote-bank and about securing money to AirIndia..
Before we go further into the drama-script, a few reminders..
Muslims want Haj subsidies scrapped
The clamour among Indian Muslims to abolish the Hajj subsidy is getting stronger. Several Muslim organisations are now pleading that India adopt the Malaysian model of Tabung Haji because the subsidy has “harmed” the community more than it has benefited them. Imam Ahmed Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid submitted a memorandum to the PM, demanding the Haj Act be amended to end Air India’s monopoly. To scrap the subsidy, they have cited the Quran, which says Haj is compulsory for only those who can afford it.
‘Haj subsidy unIslamic, use that money on our education, health’
Several Muslim intellectuals, religious scholars and leaders are suggesting that the Government scrap the Haj subsidy and spend the money instead on schools, healthcare and other basic infrastructure for the welfare of the community. Some even describe the subsidy as “vote-bank politics” and say it’s unIslamic to undertake any obligation during Haj. S Q R Ilyas, convenor of the Babri Masjid Committee and a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), call the Hajj subsidy “a sop to gain political mileage. “There is no doubt that it is unIslamic and one should not be under any obligation while undertaking Haj. But we want travel to be made an open competition. We should be allowed to place bulk orders with the airline which quotes the lowest price for a ticket. As of now, we are bound by the Government to travel by Air India.” Mufti Nazeer-ud-Din, who runs Kashmir’s biggest seminary, echoes “We should be allowed have a separate institution to regulate Haj with very little influence from the Government. The Centre should channelise the subsidy amount for the welfare of Muslims.” He also demanded global tenders for Haj flights “to make the pilgrimage cheaper” rather than being “monopolised by Air India.”…
Party Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had, in fact, slammed the subsidies as the “biggest fraud on the country” and said it was being done to make up for the huge losses incurred by the Air India. Observers recall how the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and the then Saudi Ambassador to India A. Rahman N. Alohaly had told an Indian delegation led by the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh that any state subsidy for Haj pilgrimage is wrong.“Our ulemas will help you in explaining to your people that the subsidy goes against the spirit of the Shariat,” Al-Faisal himself had stated.”
Haj subsidy was introduced in the 70’s to provide a temporary cushion against a sudden increase in airfares following the fuel price hike.Earlier,pilgrims went by ship and later,sea travel was stopped and consequently,government subsidized the huge difference in expense between travel by sea and air.Later on,subsidies were increased as to compensate hike in accommodation and flight ticket charges..And now it has harmed the Indian muslim community more badly than the intended goodness.
Refer to one instance when The Haj Committee of Uttar Pradesh has decided to change its loyalties from Air India to Saudi Airlines for sending pilgrims to Jeddah, due to the step-motherly treatment meted out to the Hajis. With nearly 30,000 pilgrims undertaking Haj pilgrimage every year from the state, the decision is likely to cause a revenue loss of around Rs 50 crore to Air India. In short,it is making, huge profits by one way and returning part of the profit in a more attractively palatable way to Muslims maintain the vote bank. More than one lac Muslims in the country go for Haj pilgrimage every year and most of them are poor, who keep aside their savings of whole life only for Haj. Air India charges arbitrary fares from the Hajj pilgrims. Today, we get more than 50 percent rebate in Airfares on domestic and international air-routes, when we book a air ticket in advance by three months. But Air India is charging more fare from the Haj pilgrims even when they deposite the air fare in advance by one year with the Haj Committee. Let there be open international tenders for air lines to carry Haj Pilgrims in which case we can totally remove the subsidy, at the same time abolish all subsidies to every community in India under the banner of true secularism. If an independent audit is done they will perhaps discover that the govt airlines were making loss on all international sectors except the Gulf. This is very unfortunate considering that most of the people working in Gulf are quite poor even after their immigrant salaries.
Away from religious interpretations, secular principles and political analysis, there is also a financial aspect which makes the Hajj subsidies a butt of ridicule. Notwithstanding the subsidy, an intending Indian pilgrim still has to put together at least Rs 65,000-Rs 70,000 for Hajj. By what logic can anyone argue that a person who can afford Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000 is incapable of raising few more thousands, which constitute the subsidy?
What’s more, today, there are hundreds of tour operators who offer an all-inclusive Hajj tour package for the same amount without any subsidies whatsoever, and also earn a profit. Hajj Subsidy was given to those traveling through Hajj Committee. Every year Haj Committee sends around 60 to 70 thousand Indians to Hajj. Hajj Committee (by law) is forced to purchase these 60 to 70 thousand air tickets from Air India only.The Hajj subsidy was on these air ticket prices and hence was nothing but a discount on bulk air ticket purchases. But for political reasons it was given a name as a Subsidy and hence was meant to look like a favor on Indian Muslims.
The Hajj committee too needs to be reengineered.. We have lot of cozy fellows eating out poor man’s and government’s money.Maybe a transparent system of selection the committee members could be established..Recall a case against Hajj committee for fraud According to M Yunus, general secretary of the Tanzeem, “A return ticket to Jeddah costs Rs 21,000. But the Civil Aviation ministry, which booked the hajis on Air India charged them Rs 32,606. Of this, Rs 20,606 came from the Haj subsidy, the government provides. The ministry thus made a neat Rs 33 crore on 70,236 tickets it issued last year.’’. According to Rana Siddiqui, the petitioner’s lawyer, the Haj Committee also made Rs 28 crore on the foreign exchange it gives pilgrims.
Lastly,I feel odd when I hear people ranting “Muslims doing pilgrimage at Hindu’s money”..I didn’t know that muslims in India don’t pay tax…Also,I wonder why BJP didn’t bother to stop this ‘appeasement’ when they were in power..Bottom line is,every political party is keen on keeping the matter alive so that this ‘subsidy’ remains a never ending bash..I request all of you to see for yourself what is the intention behind all this..
I request all fellow indian muslims to grab this opportunity to bring an end to this drama..
Read an article from timeofindia..
Unless one is particularly predisposed against Muslims, any discussion on Haj subsidy should be done after considering whether the State has adhered to this secular credo.
Pursuing the philosophy of sarva dharma sambhav, the government has been investing resources on supporting the religious practices of all communities. For example, everytime Kumbh Mela is held, the State builds infrastructure for the pilgrims.
It organises Amarnath and Mansarovar yatras. And doles out compensation for pilgrims who lose their life during pilgrimage. The railways run Tirth Yatra specials to take pilgrims to different dhams. During Chhat Puja, munic-ipal authorities in Bihar clean up water bodies for people to take a dip.
Trains run from different parts to take kawariyas for a holy dip at Devgarh. Every year, the government creates facilities for Ramlila. The district magistrate — a representative of the secular State — fires the arrow to set Ravana’s effigy ablaze.
All this is done at a great cost to the exchequer. Except for the Sikhs, and to some extent Jains, whose own religious bodies spend on the processions they take out to commemorate anniversaries of gurus, all other communities depend on the government to support their pilgrimages and festivities.
Curiously no objection is raised against them. No one questions when the government doles out huge amounts for the creation of infrastructure for Kumbh Melas. Nor is any hullabaloo raised when it announces compensation for dead pilgrims.
In comparison, a lot of noise is raised against the Haj subsidy, which is actually a subsidy to Air India rather than to the Muslim pilgrims per se. It seems as if in this country Muslims have no claim over State resources.
After all, they are equal citizens of India. Indeed, some people do see Muslims as lesser citizens, so they want the Haj subsidy to go. Such squint-eyed vision has no place in a secular state.
As long as the State continues to act on the premise that it is its business to be involved in the religious affairs of its citizens, withdrawal of the subsidy would seriously compromise its secular credentials.
Until the government withdraws completely from religious realm and leaves the communities to foot the bill for their own activities, Muslims are as much entitled to favoured treatment as others.
A report released by Press Information Bureau in December 2006
Haj Subsidy, Anyone?