Haj subsidy phase out begins from next year

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by ejazr, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Haj subsidy cuts start soon

    New Delhi, October 13: From next year, the government will start phasing out the subsidy it doles out on Haj pilgrimage leaving it to the rich Hajis to pay for their poor brethren.

    Nodal Ministry of External Affairs is framing a Cabinet note on Haj Management Reforms where it has proposed that the government stop subsiding pilgrimages, including Haj, over seven years starting from next year.

    Instead, "a premium would be charged from better-off Hajis to cross-subsidise the travel cost for the less well-off Hajis". For this, the quota of poor Hajis going through the lottery route and the rich going through the premium route would be kept equal.

    "The better-off Hajis will pay 20 per cent premium in the first year with the government funding the rest. This premium would be raised gradually to its full value in seven years so that the government is kept out of the funding," said an MEA official.

    "At the same time, cost optimization steps such as long-term leasing of accommodation, reducing turnaround time of a Haji in Saudi Arabia and long-term licensing of tour operators would be carried out so that the gap and hence the premium charged comes down substantially," he added.

    The entire operations would be handed over to Central Haj Committee which would act as a "one-stop-shop". This delegation to CHC including fixing aircraft carriers and airfare would be first experimented for three years before suitably amending the Haj Committee Act of 2002.

    "The CHC will work out the operational details of the cross-subsidisation model so as to phase out the subsidy on airfare over a period of seven years," said the MEA official. The proposal has the approval of the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary, he said.

    The objective of the proposed reforms is to comply with the court directions. In August 2006, the Allahabad High Court restrained the Centre from subsidising Haj or any other Yatra of any community except for making arrangements to ensure law and order and pilgrims’ safety.

    In July 2009, Andhra Pradesh HC held that the state cannot fund any pilgrimage after PILs challenged state’s allocation of Rs 2 crore for Christians for journey to holy sites.

    Last August, the Minority Affairs Ministry opposed providing subsidy for Haj pilgrimage, saying the scheme in operation since 1993 was contrary to the teachings of Islam.
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    Finally the GoI is acting on the request of numerous Muslim organizations to get rid of Haj subsidy. The scheme of Rich Hajis subsidizing the poor is alright as it is in a way helping out the poor who want to do Hajj.
     
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  3. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    This is one of the many small yet important steps that India must take so as to ensure complete and unambiguous separation of the Church and the State. The ultimate goal, as enshrined in the Constitution, is to achieve a democracy based on equality under law, and the non-Uniform Civil Code and Reservation for Minorities will one day have to go.

    I am not qualified enough to comment when this should happen; but will take the liberty to state that when reservation based on social practices, such as, but not limited to, reserving the job of a Priest for those who are Brahmins-by-Birth, discrimination based on faith, such as, but not limited to, not allowing persons of certain faiths to buy property in certain areas and other social ills end, should we interpret it as a signal to embark on the unfinished task of nation building that India had pledged to constitute herself when she got freedom from the shackles of the British Empire.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2010
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    well it will reduce one source of income to AIR india and will push it into further loses.
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I am surprised that any Govt could take this step!

    It will sure affect the votes!

    Will the Waqf Boards be able to subsidies the poor amongst the Muslims?

    How many do go for Haj per year?
     
  6. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Nowadays, 1,72,000 Indian pilgrims are going every year to perform Haj. Of these, 1,17,000 go through the Haj Committee of India and the remaining 55,000 go through the Private Tour Operators (PTOs). In addition, nearly 80,000 Indian pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia every year to perform the lesser pilgrimage known as 'Umrah'.

    I got this information from this source: http://www.culturopedia.com/religions/indian-pigrimage-haj.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2010
  7. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The reality is that almost all Muslims unanimously oppose this subsidy. I have not met a single Muslim who said that they want to keep this subsidy, primarily because it goes against Islamic law(shariah) on the basis that you are suppose to do Hajj only if you are financially and physically capable to do so. The minority affairs ministry has also been repeated asking the govt. to phase out the subsidy as well, more seriously since UPA2.
    Muslim MPs had called for its phaseout much before the Sangh Parivar jumped on it and used it as stick in the 90s. This article by from 2000 gives a good overview of history of subsidy and the role of Air India fares. Haj subsidy is a fact and must go eventually

    The only people who will oppose it are those who were lining their pockets with the money on the sly. I can guarantee you right now that they will be no opposition from any muslim group and infact will be welcomed as this was their demand for a long time.


    The government still has to be involved in law order and logistics, as well as visa issuing through the MEA as the Saudi govt. only works on a govt. to govt. level when it comes to issuing Hajj visas.


    To help out the poor pilgrims, the rich pilgrims will be charged a premium of upto 20% which would cover the poor pilgrims. And since a person who helps a person complete his/her Hajj financially or otherwise is rewarded as having done a Hajj themselves, I don't see why the rich Hajj pilgrims will oppose it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2010
  8. ahmedsid

    ahmedsid Top Gun Senior Member

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    EjazR has already said it, and the fact is that, Muslims who are able bodied and financially capable are to only do the Hajj! They are not supposed to borrow and Go for the Haj or Go on Subsidies either!
     
  9. Sri

    Sri Regular Member

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    A fair move if it happens. Good to see this has support among majority Muslims as well, as noted by Ahmedsid and Ejazr.
     
  10. Sri

    Sri Regular Member

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    Actually, it will cut costs for Air India who will no longer have to subsidize a good percentage of their middle eastern routes.

    Plus, Govt. shouldn't be running air lines in the first place. Privatize it! ;-)
     
  11. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian Regular Member

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    I wonder why is this been introduced and kept for so long if no muslim org supported or asked for it..? Any way a good move now towards SECULARism..
    what next to be done is make a body which can handle money from temples and spend it for the welfare of hindu religion..govt should not interfere in these matters.
     
  12. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Just an innocuous observation,what was wrong with the haj subsidy anyway.It has been held that its a state's responsibility to provide, as much as can be reasonably possible,for a citizens fulfillment of his spiritual nourishment.It can be conceived that all religious pilgrimages, domestic or external like Haj or kailash-Manas sarovar involve some sort of state assistance or provisioning.My only problem stems from the fact that at times govt has had to resort to indiscriminate discrimination to choose from among the entire communities as to who is eligible to receive such assistance(I reckon almost all Hindus and Muslims would like to go to kailash and mecca respectively)
     
  13. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Govt to save 25% on Haj subsidy via competitive bidding

    The government will be able to save 25 per cent on Haj subsidy by designating carriers for flying pilgrims through global competitive bidding.

    “We will be able to save around Rs 170 crore this year just by selecting carriers through competitive bidding for flying Haj pilgrims,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified. Last year, the government had paid a subsidy of Rs 770 crore.

    Saudi Arabian Airlines, Al-Wafer and Nasair won bids for operating Haj flights as they quoted the minimum fare. Air India tried, but was outbid. These three Saudi carriers will together operate 431 flights to bring in the pilgrims.

    In the last 45 years, the government for the first time selected airlines through competitive bidding. Till last year, Air India used to be the designate carrier for Haj operations and operate on a cost basis.

    “Air India also bid for the rights, but could not compete the cost quoted by these Saudi carriers. Even at much lower cost, these carriers are making profit because they get jet fuel at much lower costs,” said the official.

    Jet fuel costs in India are much higher and make 40 per cent of the total operating cost.

    During this season, 125,000 pilgrims will be traveling through the Haj Committee and 45,431 pilgrims through private tour operators.
     
  14. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The whole problem in India is that the State and Religion is not honestly separated.

    It is used for votebank.

    It is used to whip up divides.

    It is used to enact laws that that through sleight of hand panders to religious and caste differences.

    In short the use of religion as a political weapon is what causes all our miseries.

    But then the Tiger having tasted blood cannot change into being a vegetarian!
     
  15. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Spiritual nourishment, in the old days, that one had to save through a lifetime, to achieve this goal. The spiritual nourishment was very satisfying since one had to sacrifice for a lifetime before one could achieve this 'nirvana' (so to say).

    If God is brought to your doorstep or if things are made easy, then the overwhelming sense of achievement of having 'worked' to achieve God's Blessing is, to my mind, not there and hence not that satisfying except for a feeling of 'been there, done that'!

    Let me explain lest I am misunderstood.

    Vaishnudevi can be visited by foot, animal transport or by helicopter.

    Through which means of the above with there be the maximum spiritual satisfaction of having done an 'achievement' of a lifetime?!

    One has to struggle and work hard for salvation!

    It cannot be instant coffee and served for one at the table!

    A coffee connoisseur cannot achieve the same satisfaction if served instant coffee as the connoisseur would if served coffee bean coffee. A true believer thus cannot have instant, govt assisted, religious salvation served to him on the table, struggle free!
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  16. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    According to Islamic law, Haj is to be done only if a person is financially and physically capable of doing it. If he/she cant afford to do so, then it is not obligatory. If someone wants to help out a person to go on Hajj, it should be done voluntarily, not by the state. That is why none of the other countries have this sort of subsidy for Hajj.

    Besides, as a secular welfare state, the government should not be involved in subsidizing religious observances for any faith. This is of course different from providing logistics and security to pilgrims like security to pilgrims going to Mansarover or Ajmer for example. It would be a similar role if someone wanted to have a huge rock concert or a some other event as well.
    But the state should not be involved in subsidizing the travel costs for people of any faith. If Hindus and Muslims are subsidised for Mansarover and Mecca, then what about Buddhists, or Christians who want to go on pilgrimages as well.

    Instead this money should be used by the state in providing welfare schemes to the disadvantaged and weaker sections of the society. Of course on an individual level people can still contribute to the pilgrims. Like rich individuals voluntarily helping out poor Muslims to meet financial costs to go to Mecca.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  17. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    A state can be separated from religion,but can a nation and the religion its citizenry be separated.Besides its a misconstrue to see state's 'enabling assistance' as charity,when a state makes available resources,it is merely redeeming its pledge to use the national resource,resource accumulated from citizens investment with the state,for the citizens all encompassing needs,both secular and spiritual.So definitely state subsidy for a religious pilgrimage is not charity.The only moot point being that such distribution of resources,for the above purpose,must be available to all and non discriminating.
     
  18. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Ejaz has already told why muslims don't want subsidy. In fact our small Dawoodi Bohra community does not go with govt subsidized Haj. It has always been through our own organization. The Haj Committee is used for visa purpose only.

    We do have a system of rich people physically weak who send poor on their behalf.

    Last years cost for a 40 day trip was 2Lacs odd per person which includes food and accommodation.
     
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Air Arabia and another Middle East airlines have the lowest fare.

    I read somewhere in Telegraph that Air India or Indian is nowhere in the picture.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  20. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    There are two points I would like to highlight.

    1. It is not of concern as to what the Sangh Parivar has to say. Even when there was the BJP led NDA govt, Haj subsidy was there and so the Sangh Parivar is irrelevant to the issue.

    2. If Haj subsidy is against Shariah, it is obvious that those who are taking the subsidy are committing haram. Haj being a momentous landmark in one's life of a Muslim and the most sacred, it is obviously that no Muslim would commit haram when they are embarking on such a pious and momentous event of their life. It is also a fact that Muslim take their religious rites very seriously.

    Therefore, who are using this subsidy?

    Law and order and providing infrastructural facilities are different issues and the govt has to ensure that such facilities are extended to its citizens.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The examples of France, Britain and the US do indicate that a nation and the religion can be separated from the citizenry.

    Any form of subsidy is ‘charity’. The govt subsidises many sectors of the citizenry like the fertiliser subsidy etc. It is in the interest of the govt or for contractual reasons that such subsidies are given.

    Religion, any religion for that matter, is not a govt matter. It is a personal issue. Any financial assistance or subsidy does constitute charity and falls in its ambit. Infrastructural assistance does not fall under the ambit of charity, but an act of governance.

    Financial assistance in the form of a subsidy may come from one's government, but the term subsidy may also refer to assistance granted by others, such as individuals or non-governmental institutions, although these would be more commonly described as charity.

    In modern usage, the practice of charity means the giving of help to those in need who are not related to the giver.

    In so far as sense of spiritual achievement and hence overwhelming spiritual satisfaction, it has to be ‘worked’ for and I wonder if it is given on a platter, it holds the same satisfaction.

    Why do pilgrims go through so many difficult physical rituals? Why do pilgrims going to Sabramalai, not permitted to ascend the `Pathinettam Padi' without carrying a Irumudi on the head. Why carry this load and why not have them delivered at the shrine itself through govt agents or for that matter, anybody?

    The devotees of Ayyappan follow the 41 days Vradh or fast. Rigorous practises go into the special worship during the 41 days. Devotees observing the fast abstain from non vegetarian food, alcohol and sex for 41 days. They deny the least comforts of the body by walking barefoot and sleeping on the floor etc. Some even do not shave and grow a beard. The negligence of the body symbolically represents traversing beyond the body towards spiritual realization. The journey on foot through the jungle symbolically represents the arduous efforts one has to take towards God realization or self realization.

    Why go through all this?

    Throughout the world, Muslims observe the Ramadan month by fasting and through increased concentration for purification of soul to increase closeness with God. It is a period of worship and contemplation. On the 27th evening, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (Night of Power) with the believe that on this day in 610 AD, the Holy Quran was revealed providing guidance, teaching, direction to all and also judging between wrong and right.

    Eid al-Adha is the "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid" is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Ismael) as an act of obedience to God, but instead was able to sacrifice a ram (by God's command).

    Why do Muslims go through the rituals of Ramzan or the Christians go through a rituals of Lent? It is arduous too!

    The whole issue is about sacrifice. In all religion, sacrifice is an essential instrument for one to test oneself regarding his devotion and belief and consequently, achieve a spiritual higher satisfaction that one has been true to his God and religious beliefs and practices.

    Now, if sacrifice is missing and instead the govt is made responsible to put religion on the plate, I wonder if higher spiritual ideals and beliefs can be achieved.

    It is like comparing climbing Mt Everest on an escalator and feeling that one has conquered Mt Everest and the arduous assaults undertaken by so many mountaineers like Mallory, Tenzing and Hillary and the satisfaction some had to attempt it and some who conquered it!
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010

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