A SECTION of the country’s Muslim leadership wants the government to do away with Haj subsidies. A group of Muslim MPs has proposed the setting up of a Rs 1,500-crore corporation based on Islamic laws or Shariah that will manage the country's Haj pilgrims and also offer investment services.
The government pays Rs 250 crore a year to subsidise Haj — a move that has raised questions about the need for a secular state to do so. Within the community too there seems to be a new urge to take ownership of Haj. “Haj subsidies give the community a bad name,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a BJP MP and member of the Haj Committee of India.
Shariah prohibits Muslims from earning interest on their investments. The proposed corporation will, therefore, invest deposits made by Muslims in industrial and agro-business activities. “The institution will use the crores of rupees generated through such investments for the management of Haj and development of infrastructure,” said K. Rehman Khan, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, who is spearheading the move.
The MPs want the government to pay Rs 750 crore as seed money. “All we want is three years Haj subsidy,” said Khan. “We can raise a similar amount through foreign direct investment or from Muslims here.” The corporation even plans to buy aircraft.
The MPs submitted their proposal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year. It says an autonomous body should be created, separate from the Central Haj Committee. “The prime minister has assured Rs 300 crore,” said MP Furkan Ansari.
The move for the new body has gained momentum with the controversy over Haj subsidies erupting again and the Supreme Court recently allowing them to be continued for now.