Haj Subsidy is Constitutional,Says Government!

via Raghavan Nair published on November 23, 2006

In an affidavit filed in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, the central government said that the expenditure for felicitating and supporting the pilgrimage to religious places is clearly covered under Article 282 of the constitution.  Article 282 gives broad power to the government to incur expenditure by way of grants for any public purpose notwithstanding that purpose is not one with respect to which the parliament or the state Legislature, as the case may be, has the power to make laws. The Government further pointed out that, subsidy for the Haj pilgrimage was included in the central government budget; thereby the court could not direct to go backtrack in this issue.


 


What the Petitioner Mr.B.N.Shukla, the Shiv Sena activist, argued have been that Lahore High Court in Pakistan has directed their government to stop providing subsidy to their Haj pilgrims as it was “contrary to the Shariat, the Islamic Law” and the Saudi Arabian foreign minister in 2004 has told the then Indian government that the subsidy was wrong.


 


The central government clarified that subsidy is not being paid to the pilgrims but difference in fares between existing air fare and the charter flight fare (Rs.32, 000.00 – Rs.12, 000.00 = Rs.20, 000.00) which is Rs.20, 000.00 per passenger being paid by the government. So, the total subsidy for 74,000 pilgrims will be Rs.20, 000.00 x 72,000 i.e. 144 crores. In addition to this subsidy, government incur considerable expenditure towards opening permanent Haj office in the Consulate General of India in Jeddah, the deputation of a Haj mission, setting up Medical Mission with several Haj dispensaries in Mecca and Median, free medicines, ambulance service, hospital facilities, deputation of state Hajj committees and an official Haj Goodwill Mission (It is pertinent mention here that a few like the controversial `FM’ act as middle man and pocket crores of rupees during the Haj season).


 


Haj subsidy was started in 1970 when the ships of Moghul Line (a subsidiary of the SCI) sustained heavy losses due to hike in oil prices and reduced its services. The subsidy question was first raised in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs in 1990 during congress Government led by Mr.P.V.Narasimha Rao.  All parties were represented in the Standing Committee and the unanimous recommendation of the Committee was to reduce the subsidy and eventually abolish it. In this context, it is appropriate to ponder on the religious aspect of the issue as well. Islam is built on five pillars, namely: Testimony that there is no one worth worshiping except for Allah, and that Mohammad is his messenger, establishing regular prayers, payment of alms, fasting during the month of Ramadhan, and performing pilgrimage to the sacred house of Allah, for those who can afford. It is very clear from the aforesaid that spirit of the religion does not allow anyone to perform Haj at another’s expense. It is for this reason that no Islamic country today subsidizes Haj. Even Pakistan has done away with it.  


 


It has been proved beyond doubt  that Government’s  stand on Haj Subsidy issue is clear farce and the affidavit filed by the government in Lucknow High court claiming the subsidy constitutional and a policy decision of government are for vote bank considerations. It would be best if the offer to forgo the benefit came from the Muslim community.

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