'Savings must be deployed towards welfare of community': Ahmed Patel writes to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi over Haj subsidy withdrawal
The government's order comes in wake of a Supreme Court order in 2012, which had said that within 10 years (by 2022) the Haj subsidy should be abolished gradually.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel wrote to Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Wednesday, pointing out that as per a 2012 Supreme Court order, any savings accrued from a reduction in subsidy for Haj must be spent on the welfare of the minority community.
This letter comes a day after the Centre scrapped Haj subsidy, which was provided by the Indian government to Indian Muslim pilgrims in the form of discounted flight prices.
Patel, in his letter, pointed out that the subsidy was being phased out since 2012, and between 2014 and 2017 the amount was slashed by over Rs 200 crore. Patel sought details if the money saved was invested in the welfare of minority community.
"I sincerely hope that this reduction in outlay by nearly Rs 200 crore has been matched by an increased investment in the welfare of community, as mandated by the Honourable Supreme Court. I hope that the ministry has implemented the guidelines of the Honourable Supreme Court in letter and spirit," the letter reads. He also asked for details of any such expenditures made so far or set aside for future use.
The BJP-led government withdrew the subsidy completely in wake of a 2012 Supreme Court order, which directed the Haj subsidy be phased out by 2022. The apex court also directed the government to use whatever money was saved for the welfare of the minorities and particularly the education of their children. Before the Supreme Court order, subsidy was granted to airlines to the tune of around Rs 650 crore, to help Muslim pilgrims travel to the holy land of Mecca and Medina.
However, following the court's order, the subsidy was gradually reduced every year. According to sources in the minority affairs ministry, till 2017, the notional savings following gradual abolition of subsidy since 2012 was to tune of Rs 636.56 crore. Had the government chosen to continue reducing the subsidy at the same rate, the total national savings would have have been around Rs 5,970.6 crore by 2022, the sources told PTI.
The scheme was started in the British Era, but was further expanded in independent India with the Haj Committee Act of 1959, according to a report in The Indian Express.
However, many a times in the past, several Muslim leaders and parliamentarians argued that the real beneficiary of the scheme was Air India as the subsidy is actually a discount on an overpriced air fare, which they said was hiked especially during the Haj season.
Meanwhile, reacting to the government's decision to withdraw the subsidy four years before the Supreme Court deadline, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the Congress sincerely hopes that the Modi government will honour the Supreme Court direction and utilise the money saved for the disempowered, including modern education to children, especially young girls from minority community.
Surjewala also hoped that the government would provide special incentives for higher education, including in medical, engineering and other services, besides ensuring skill development of the children of the minority community.
He also urged the government to make provisions for helping the destitute women among the minorities, including those who have been widowed, abandoned or divorced, and make other provisions for the social development of the minority community.
With inputs from agencies
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