The Union Government has decided to end Haj subsidy from this year, as a part of its policy to 'empower minorities without appeasement'. The announcement was made by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on 16 January 2018.
The Minister stated that the decision is a part of the government’s policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement. He further said that despite the withdrawal of the subsidy, a record number of 1.75 lakh Muslims would be undertaking the pilgrimage this year from India after Saudi Arabia increased India's quota by 5,000.
Naqvi also stated that the government of Saudi Arabia has in-principle agreed to allow the Haj journey from India by ships, which will be cheaper than flying, and that the officials from the two nations would be sitting together to finalise the modalities.
The Haj subsidy, besides including cheaper airfare, also included central assistance to the pilgrims to reach the specially-designed Haj departure terminals at airports.
It also included food and medical care.
According to the Minority Affairs Ministry, the subsidy fund would now be used for educational, empowerment and welfare of girls from minority communities.
• The Supreme Court had directed in 2012 that the Haj subsidy should be done away with gradually by 2022.
• In accordance with the order, the union government had asked a panel to suggest the framework for a new Haj policy for 2018-22. Its report was submitted in October.
• Hence, the new policy, drafted as per the recommendations of the panel, called for the gradual withdrawal of Haj subsidy.
• Other recommendations of the panel included allowing older women to travel to haj without male guardians.
• The panel was headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah.
Besides this, another key decision taken by the Union Government includes allowing Muslim women above the age of 45 to go on Haj without male company, in a group of at least four.
Earlier, women were not allowed to travel without ‘Mehram’- male relatives they can never marry like brothers or fathers.
Who: Union Government
What: Ends Haj subsidy