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Haj subsidy issue: Govt forms panel after Owaisi's call for removal

India TV Politics Desk New Delhi 12 Jan 2017, 22:03:20 PM IST
India TV Politics Desk

The government on Thursday formed a six-member committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing subsidy given to pilgrims by 2022. 

This comes a day after All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi reiterated his demand to scrap the subsidy and istead use it to educate Muslim girls. 

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia increased India's annual Haj quota to 1.7 lakh which would have further increased the funds given to airlines in form of Haj subsidy. The amount currently ranges over Rs 680 crore. 

Welcoming the increase in Haj quota, Owaisi had said yesterday, “Saudi Arabia has increased Haj Quota to 1.70 from 1.30  we welcome it @naqvimukhtar Please remove Haj Subsidy 690 cr allot to Girls Eductn.”

The committee, inter alia, will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of such subsidy, sources said. 

"Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has already formed a high-level committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue. The committee will look into whether giving subsidy has benefits or can pilgrims travel paying less if there no subsidy is offered," a source said. 

The committee will engage all the stakeholders concerned before submitting its report, they added. 

The sources said that official announcement regarding formation of the panel is expected in the next few days. 

Naqvi had last November argued that the subsidy is a blot on Muslim community and must be removed.  

"Haj subsidy is a blot on the community and it must be removed," he said.

Many argue that a few airlines benefit from the Haj subsidy and not the pilgrims.
If Haj travel is opened to more airlines, the airfare will be cheaper. Last year each Haji from Haj Committee was subsidized Rs 30,000 on airfare.
The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022. 

It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year then on educational and social development of the community.

In the biggest hike in nearly three decades, Saudi Arabia had yesterday increased India's annual Haj quota by 34,500, a move welcomed by the NDA government as a "matter of pleasure". 

Naqvi and Saudi Arabia's Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten inked an agreement in this regard in Jeddah yesterday, increasing the size of India's Haj quota from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520.