Owaisi: End Haj subsidy
New Delhi, Jan. 12: All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi today unleashed a full-scale debate on Haj subsidy, giving a fillip to the government move already under way to initiate discussions with all stakeholders on doing away with this assistance.
Owaisi welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to increase India's Haj quota for this year by 34,500 pilgrims but said the subsidy amount should be spent on educating girls.
In a tweet directly to minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the AIMIM leader said: "Saudi Arabia has increased Haj Quota... we welcome it @naqvimukhtar Please remove Haj Subsidy 690 cr allot to Girls Eductn."
The tweet triggered a debate on social media and he found broad support for the cause. Many pointed out that the subsidy was more of a mirage as the actual beneficiary was Air India, the official carrier for the Haj.
The only aspect of the pilgrimage that is subsidised is the airfare.
Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi, however, pointed out that subsidy for pilgrimage helped those who were not so affluent and should be available for all religions.
The minority affairs ministry had last week decided to set up a six-member panel to start discussions on abolishing the subsidy, a long-standing demand from within the community.
There is no official word on who the members of the committee would be but officials said the panel would include experts and academics from the community and financial institutions.
Asked whether a UPA proposal to make the Haj management independent by raising its own resources along the lines of the Malaysian Tabung Haji was being considered, they described it as a failed experiment.
Tabung Haji is the Malaysian pilgrims fund board. People register with it by paying small amounts for years to build a corpus. Malaysia developed permanent facilities for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and at home with this corpus.
Naqvi has already held informal talks on the abolition of the Haj subsidy with MPs, religious leaders and academics.