The Union government has decided to form a panel to look into the issue of subsidy given to Haj pilgrims. Since 2010, the Centre has examined different proposals regarding the issue but nothing concrete has resulted so far.
This time the committee is expected to come up more effective measures to tackle the issue.
In 2010, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) floated a proposal to cut the subsidy by 10% every year. The move came as the subsidy rose to Rs 827 crore in 2008.
The Supreme Court in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and completely remove the Haj subsidy by 2022.
The subsidy is given to those who go through the Haj committee of India and not through private operators. The quota this year has been raised to 1.70 lakh people. In 2011, when the pilgrim quota was 170, 162, the subsidy amount was Rs 685 crore and the expense of the external affairs ministry was Rs 33.16 crore.
“The Haj subsidy varies from Rs 600 crore to Rs 700 crore and external affairs ministry incurs expense of Rs 28 to Rs 33 crore for the same every year”, says an official.
While many argue that the subsidy is helping airline, Air India, others feel a more comprehensive measure is needed.
An aircraft that takes the pilgrims to Haj flies back empty. There have been suggestions to allow more airlines to fly the pilgrims to make it more competitive.
Several prominent Muslim leaders have suggested cost-cutting initiatives in the past. In 2008, then Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan and some Muslim MPs urged the centre to follow the Malaysian model on Tabunjg Haji.
The Malaysian Tabung Haji system involves investment by the pilgrims in an “Islamic, Shariat-compliant” way.
The pilgrims invest an amount they can afford in a kitty for a period of time and withdraw it when they want to go for Haj.