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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Centre drafts proposal to abolish Haj subsidy by 2018

Sources said the report will be examined in the ministry and shared with all concerned for implementation of the accepted recommendations from Haj 2018 onwards.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2017 08:21 IST

Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Muslims pray at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on August 29, 2017.
Muslims pray at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on August 29, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

In a bid to cut down government spending on Haj, a ministry of minority affairs committee has recommended reducing embarkation points for Haj pilgrimage from 21 to nine. 

The five-member panel, tasked with drafting a new policy for the pilgrimage between 2018 and 2022, has also recommended reducing the quota of pilgrims going through the Haj Committee of India (HCI) by fixing the ratio of HCI pilgrims and those going through private tour operators to 70:30. Purchasing of ‘Adahi’ (animal sacrifice) coupons should be mandatory for all pilgrims, the panel suggested. 

The policy has been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order asking the Centre to gradually abolish the Haj subsidy by 2022. The policy draft was submitted to Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Saturday, who said that the government will review the recommendations and come up with the final draft. 

"The 2018 Haj pilgrimage will be in line with the new Haj policy. It is a better policy, looking at the facilities proposed. It will be a transparent, people-friendly policy. It will ensure safety and security of pilgrims," said Naqvi. 

The committee members said that the draft policy will allow the central government, which has already substantially reduced the subsidy, to quash it altogether within a year. "We had to find ways to reduce government spending," said Kamal Faruqui, a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AMPLB) and one of the committee members. 

The members said that reducing the embarkation points will bring down the cost of pilgrimage to a large extent. “The cost of travelling from smaller airport is double the cost of travelling from major airports. That's why we have recommended limiting the embarking points to major airports in the country," said Shafi Parkar, a former judge of Bombay HC and a committee member. The nine embarkation points recommended include Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Begaluru and Cochin. 

The committee has also recommended making the bidding process for airlines more competitive, and reducing the cost by better negotiations. "The current bidding process is a sham. The airlines have a cartel, that needs to be broken," said Faruqui. 

The panel has also suggested consulting the Saudi Arabian government for the possibility of travel by sea.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 17:35 IST