Muslim leaders hail SC order on Hajj subsidy abolition
NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW MAJORITY of Muslim clerics and leaders on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court ruling directing the government to eliminate in the next 10 years the subsidy given to Hajjis - pilgrims to the holy Makkah.
The clerics and leaders said that instead of providing subsidies, the Hajj committee, an autonomous body under the Indian government responsible for making arrangement for Hajj pilgrimage, should be revamped.
The leaders demanded open tendering of tickets which would result in Air India, which at present has the ticketing monopoly, having to compete with other airlines to attract maximum travellers and giving cheaper tickets.
“We welcome this ruling. If people from other religions don’t get subsidies for pilgrimages, why should we. We all are equal citizens of the country,” Mukarram Ahmed, Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Fatehpuri Masjid, told IANS.
“It should not take ten years for the ban on subsidy to come into effect, but it should be done away with within a year,” agreed Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari.
“The Hajj committee should be made more powerful and better services, including cheap tickets, should be offered to those going on the pilgrimage,” Vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani told IANS.
“There should be open tendering of tickets so that there is competition and we get the best deal,” he added. Bukhari slammed the present subsidy scheme and accused Air India of overcharging.
“Just because they have a monopoly, a Delhi to Jeddah ticket costs us Rs 45,000 whereas Saudi Arabian airlines’ ticket costs only Rs 22,000. Where is the money going? In the pockets of Air India,” said Bukhari.
Sunni community leader Haji Khalid Rasheed too said they were demanding for a long time that the subsidy by the union government be withdrawn.
“We have asked the government to axe the subsidy and to alternately follow it up with open tendering of air tickets..
which would bring down the ticket prices heavily,” he said in Lucknow.
However, some like Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad of Lucknow said the apex court was “not within its rights to make laws” as it was a custodian of laws and the ruling may hit the poor Muslims who would be deprived of their holy Hajj.
Agreed Wasim Ahmad, Uttar Pradesh minister for basic education, who said he was “feeling let down” by the ruling. “What can I say on this, it is sad but then it is that way that the apex court works,” he mused.