The Central government has scrapped the Haj subsidy that was till now given to Muslims who travelled to Mecca for pilgrimage.
State Congress president M.M. Hassan said that this is the latest example of the attitude of the Centre towards the minority community, adding that subsidy has been on since the days of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, there is an exception to the rules for the poor and people over 70 years of age.
Ending subsidy and allowing older women to travel without male guardians were among the recommendations of a panel tasked by the government to suggest a new Haj policy.
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Muslim pilgrims will no longer be given subsidy for Haj from 2018.
Announcing the decision, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was in line with the BJP government's agenda to empower minorities without appeasing them.
"The Haj subsidy varies from Rs 600 crore to Rs 700 crore and external affairs ministry incurs expense of Rs 28 to Rs 33 crore for the same every year", says an official.
Hajj subsidy was "a major earner for the national airline, Air India", said Faizan Mustafa, a Muslim scholar and vice-chancellor of the Nalsar University of Law.
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Muslim pilgrims were given the subsidy through concessionary airline fares. "We don't want to do appeasement politics". In 2012, it was around Rs 650 crore but today it would be much less.
He said the subsidy a year ago was only Rs 200 crore and challenged the Modi government "to walk the talk by allocating funds for Muslim girls scholarships".
The subsidy is given to those who go through the Haj committee of India and not through private operators. "However the decision to divert the subsidy amount to provide education to Muslim girls, is nothing but a ploy to project an image that this government is for the welfare of Muslim women, will not stand", he said.
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