Abolish Haj subsidy, demands Mahmood Madani

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Deoband (UP), Feb 26:The government subsidy being provided to Haj pilgrims should be abolished forthwith as it was not the solution but "part of the problem", said General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Rajya Sabha MP Maulana Mahmood Madani.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an All India Anti-Terrorism Conference here Yesterday, Maulana Madani said the Haj Act should be amended and the state Haj Committees be given more powers to manage the pilgrim traffic. He said instead of giving subsidy Haj flights can be managed through universal tendering, which would not only ensure better facilities to the pilgrims but also make it cost effective. "It will be cheaper than what Hajis have to pay now," the lawmaker said.

Recently, a group of Muslim MPs led by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan have asked the Union Cabinet to abolish the subsidy, which they claimed attracted accusations of "Muslim appeasement" and was in a way against Islam too.

Maulana Madani, one of the frontline Muslim leaders of the country, denied suggestion that the move may be opposed by Haj Committees, specially the subsidy managers, as it will render them irrelevant.

''What we are actually demanding is to amend the Haj Act to delegate more powers to these committees. It will ensure better management of the pilgrimage and be also easy on the pockets of the Hajis,'' he said.

The subsidy was introduced 15 years ago by former prime minister P V Narsimha Rao. It stops the pilgrims from flying in private airlines, some of which offer better packages, at much cheaper rates.

Talking about the accusations of mismanagement of the whole exercise Maulana Madani said "Right now we have government departments with clearly defined powers and authority but the need is to fix responsibility, which is missing." The group of MPs have proposed to set up a fund in which prospective pilgrims can invest money according to a flexible schedule and can withdraw all or some part of it when they plan to go on Haj. The surplus money would be invested in Islamic activities and part of the profits distributed among the pilgrims.

About 1.5 lakh Indian Muslims perform Haj every year.

UNI

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