Subsidies on the basis of religion have always been decried as unconstitutional, but it took more than 5 decades and a supreme court 2012 ruling for the Congress to realize this. Congress party under the leadership of Nehru-Gandhi family for decades made minority Muslim appeasement as a keystone of its fundamental philosophy around which policies and rules have been framed for the nation, thus causing great harm, grievances and injustice to the Hindus and rest of other religions. As an example one could recall the infamous line, the former Congress PM Manmohan Singh uttered not very long back – “Muslims must have first claim on the resources of India”.
The Haj subsidy is a special subsidy given to Indian Muslim Haj pilgrims in the form of airfare subsidy. Assistance to Muslim pilgrims for domestic travel to reach specially designed Haj departure airport terminals, meal, medical care and lodging assistance is also provided by the Government of India on Tax payers expense. It is estimated that the airfare subsidy per pilgrim alone is between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000 — assuming that the return air fare to Jeddah costs Rs 42,000 – Rs 46,000.
The Supreme Court in its judgement quoted some numbers, it said that in the year 1994 the number of Haj pilgrims quota was as low as 21,035, the cost per pilgrim was only Rs 17,000 and therefore the total subsidy totaled to just around Rs 10.51 crores, but this changed drastically till the year 2011 when pilgrim quota increased to 1,20,000 and the pilgrim cost increased to around Rs 54,800 per person, resulting in subsidies to a tune of Rs 700 crores which is a mind-numbing 7000% rise, and with no upper capped limit, this number can keep growing exponentially if not regulated or abolished.
Had it not been for the court ruling, the Opposition, ultra-liberals, 5 Star journalists, modern left thinkers and eminent intellectuals would have branded the Modi government of being a anti-Muslim, fascist and a communal government.
PM Narendra Modi during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia managed to get the quota of Haj visiting Indian Muslims increased by an additional 34,000. Also the PM intends to use the subsidy funds on educational programmes especially for girl children of the minority community. So one in right senses can brand PM Modi of being anti-Muslim.
The Ministry for Minority Affairs constituted a five member panel headed by former Secretary, minority affairs, Afzal Amanullah. The panel formulated a new Haj policy with recommendations about reducing the Haj subsidy to a nil by 2018, allowing women without a male relative/escort/ mehram to undertake Haj and to reduce embarkation points for Haj from 22 to nine airports which have direct flights to Saudi Arabia.
The phasing out of Haj subsidy has never been a one sided offering from the government, but even the Muslim community by and large wanted the subsidy to go, because they do not see major benefit from the subsidy.
Many are of the opinion that if tickets are booked in advance, it is possible to buy cheaper air tickets, thereby negating the need for a subsidy.
Ironically it is only in India that Haj pilgrims are provided subsidies, Even the Islamic country including Pakistan don’t provide subsidies for the Haj pilgrimage, in fact the Pilgrimages are taxed in most of the Islamic countries. A similar demand for Haj subsidy did come up in Pakistan too, but it was refused quoting Quran that although Haj is a must for every Muslim at least once in their lifetime, but it should be done only using their own hard earned money and not by using others and in reality many Muslims even in India do agree with this concept.
But the Congress as always being blinded and overzealous in appeasing the Muslims since pre-independence days just for using and seeking their VOTES never understood the reality. As for the liberals of this country, it must be painful for them to witness PM Modi abolishing an age-old practice right in front of their eyes while all they can do now is see and sulk silently. The facts, the logic, the religious intrepretation as well as the courts are firmly on the PM’s side.