The clamour among Indian Muslims to abolish the Hajj subsidy is getting stronger. Several Muslim organisations are now pleading that India adopt the Malaysian model of Tabung Haji because the subsidy has “harmed” the community more than it has benefited them.
The Centre bankrolls Hajj pilgrims to the tune of Rs 300 crore each year by subsidising the return airfare to Saudi Arabia. Under the Malaysian model, each prospective pilgrim contributes money towards Haj travel to a Shariat-complaint corpus of fund, something like India’s Public Provident Fund. Malaysians therefore fund their own Haj travel, unlike Indians.
“The PM has constituted a committee headed by the Cabinet secretary to go into the issue of an alternative financing option after we submitted a proposal to him. He is keen on a change that will
empower Muslims,” Rajya Sabha
deputy chairperson K. Rahman Khan, told the Hindustan Times on Thursday from Bangalore.
Khan had recently led a group of MPs to the PM demanding scrapping of the Haj subsidy and five state Hajj committees have appealed to the Centre to amend the Haj Act. On Thursday, Imam Ahmed Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid submitted a memorandum to the PM, demanding the Haj Act be amended to end Air India’s monopoly.
To scrap the subsidy, they have cited the Quran, which says Haj is compulsory for only those who can afford it.
“Currently, a pilgrim pays Rs 12,000 towards airfare. He pays another Rs 60 to 70,000 towards other expenses,” Mohammed Owais, the CEO of Haj Committee of India said from Mumbai.
“The Centre is keen on changing Haj financing, especially because of appeasement charges from the Sangh Parivar,” an official source said. A case challenging the subsidy filed by the Shiv Sena is already pending before the Allahabad High Court.