The Haj pilgrims for this year may have to spend R8,000 more to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Madina. Acting on a Supreme Court order of 2012, the union cabinet will consider a proposal on Thursday to gradually reduce the subsidy over Haj pilgrims.
The proposal seeks to provide Rs. 691 crores as Haj subsidy for 2013-14 whereas the government spent Rs. 836 crore last year on this account. The reduction of Rs. 145 crore will result in Haj pilgrims paying Rs. 28,000 as air travel fare for this year’s pilgrimage. Last year, the Haj pilgrims had to pay Rs. 20,000 for air travel in Air India flights.
In 2012, the Supreme Court directed the centre to gradually abolish the Haj subsidy over a period of 10 years. The apex court also said that the centre should invest that amount in education and other development measures for the minority community.
“We direct the central government to progressively reduce the amount of subsidy so as to completely eliminate it within a period of 10 years from today,” said a bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai.
The government provides subsidy on air fare for a section of Haj pilgrims every year. Last year, 1,25,152 availed this subsidy while in 2013, 1,121,420 pilgrims will get this benefit.
In 2012, the government provided a per head subsidy of Rs. 66,925 for Haj pilgrims. This year, the cabinet proposal says that the centre will subsidize Rs. 56,891 on each pilgrim.