AP to give Christians subsidy to visit Israel

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2774999.cms published on February 12, 2008

HYDERABAD: Always eager to offer sops to minorities, the Andhra Pradesh government of chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy on Monday decided to dole out subsidies, on the lines of the Haj scheme, for Christians who want to visit holy sites in Israel.

Governor N D Tiwari in his address to the joint budget session of the Assembly and Council said, “My government has decided to extend the Haj pilgrim scheme to Christian minorities also for their religious visits to Christian Holy Lands in Israel.”

The sop to Christian pilgrims by the chief minister, himself a Christian, is seen as another move by the Congress government to woo minorities ahead of the general and assembly elections scheduled for early next year.

“Unlike the Haj, which is a protected environment and which sees thousands of pilgrims from all over the world every year, holy sites in Israel including disputed Jerusalem, are located in a virtual war zone and it is unlikely that more than a few Christians from India and the state will want to visit,” said an opposition leader. Christians comprise about 1.5% of AP’s eight crore population.

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