NEW DELHI: Haj pilgrims will no longer receive any subsidy this year onwards, with the government saying the decision is part of its agenda of empowerment of minorities without appeasement.
Union minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday confirmed that the Haj subsidy has been withdrawn. “This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement,” Naqvi told reporters.
A policy to withdraw the Haj subsidy had been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order asking the Centre to abolish it gradually by 2022. The government will offer air and waterways option for the pilgrims as cost will go up.
The cut in funds meant for subsidy will be used for educational empowerment and welfare of girls from minority communities, Naqvi said.
The policy aims at rationalising distribution of the Haj quota between the Haj Committee of India and private tour operators in the ratio of 70:30 for the next five years. It also stresses on breaking the cartel of contractors with a transparent bidding process.
The highest number of pilgrims are likely to go for Haj pilgrimage in 2018, after Saudi Arabia hiked India’s pilgrim quota by 5,000 earlier this year. Now, a total of 1.75 lakh Indian citizens can go for Haj.
Around 1,300 women from India will make the annual pilgrimage without a “Mehram” (unmarriageable male kin) after Riyadh relaxed norms and allowed a group of at least four women over the age of 45 to go on Haj unchaperoned.