By Sajid Inamdar
Pune: The Centre’s decision to abolish the Haj subsidy, , has been welcomed by Muslim scholars and organisations in the city, who said the move was a “much-awaited” one.
In the past, a section of the Muslim community had called the subsidy, worth almost Rs 700 crore every year, a ‘blot’, as the Quran states that members of the community should perform Haj only if they can afford to do so.
Anees Chishti, educationist and Islamic scholar, and a special invitee on the board of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, “The decision to abolish the Haj subsidy is a good thing. While it was called a Haj subsidy, the pilgrims performing Haj didn’t get anything in hand. It was an arrangement to prevent Air India from suffering losses. The money went from one government organisation to another, since the money was being offered to the government-run airlines to offer discounted rates for flights operated by the national carrier.”
Riyaz Qazi, chief of Pune Haj Committee and a former member of the Maharashtra Haj Committee, said, “There was nothing in terms of a subsidy which came directly to a Haj pilgrim. It was a subsidy for Air India and was serving as a lifeline for it. Had the government followed the process of open global tender for air travel, it would have made the process more economical.”
Shamshuddin Tamboli, president of the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal, said the government was following the Supreme Court’s instructions in 2012, when the apex court had ordered that the Haj subsidy should be phased out over a 10-year period.
“Even in 2012, Muslims had welcomed the decision because it is part of the religious duties of a Muslim to perform the pilgrimage, only if they can afford it. So, a subsidy was not desirable. I believe that in a secular country like India, there should be no place for religious subsidies and any other subsidy for pilgrimages should also be stopped. Instead, the money should go towards the development of the community, by spending it on education or health projects,” he said.