‘Hajj Subsidy for Air India’ Abolished

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Muslim pilgrim throw pebbles at a stone pillar representing the devil, during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. The last stage of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the symbolic stoning of the devil, began on Friday. The first day of stoning also marks the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, or feast of sacrifice, when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Some elements gratified but Muslims unaffected

 

The government of India, this week, ended the subsidy which was provided to the Hajj pilgrims of India. Neither did the Muslims benefit from it nor will the government benefit from its revocation, monetarily. What was the motive then? To reap the political dividend. To do anything against Muslims, especially when a term like Hajj is associated, it further consolidates BJP’s pro-majority positioning. I’ll support this argument with facts a little later. Hindu groups, like those of Praveen Togadia, would often raise this issue and argue why would Hindus pay tax to facilitate Muslim pilgrimage?

Notwithstanding its politics, let’s see what this subsidy was. The Civil Aviation Ministry would offer discounts on Air India tickets- a government airline with an exclusive right to fly Hajj pilgrims. However, the Air India would inflate the prices during Hajj season, capitalizing on its monopoly. This increased amount was then presented as a discount by the airline. It was a zero-sum game where the government would simply take money out from one pocket to fill the other, and manage to fool the pilgrims in the name of subsidy which never existed. The only beneficiary of this exercise was Air India which would have no competition to fill its seats. Now that this sham has been done away with, tenders should be sought from all the interested airlines and the least quoted price be selected. If that’s done efficiently, the costs should come down. So, if at all it was a subsidy, it was for Air India, not for the pilgrims. In fact, the real cost is less than the subsidized one, as illustrated here:

Actual price < Subsidized price+Monopoly.

Coming back to the real motive behind it. The Supreme Court of India, in 2012, had already asked to phase out Hajj pilgrimage by 2022, based on Article 27 which said “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination’’. What was the need for BJP government to do it now? This has been there since British colonial era (the year 1932 to be precise). It was there for 85 years and was all set to go in 3 years from now, on its own. Well, this was to take credit from the judiciary’s constitutional verdict and make it BJP’s yet another milestone achieved to thump a ‘Hindu chest’.

Now if they still argue that removal of some 200crore subsidy was not communally motivated, let them put an end to all the religious subsidies, in the spirit of the Article 27 mentioned above. What does this government say about 1150 crore state expenditure on Kumbh Mela? What about 100 crore Union grant, apart from 3400 Crore State grant, to Simhastha Mahakumbh, Madhya Pradesh? Here in J&K, the Amarnath Shrine board is responsible for developmental activities and to pay salaries to its staff. It also includes construction of accommodation for pilgrims and other allied activities. The Char Dham pilgrims get Rs. 20,000 each from the Karnataka state government.The Rajasthan government sanctioned Rs. 38 crores for Devasthan, last year, apart from spending 26 crores for training priests and renovating temples. The Haryana state gave 1 crore to Dera Sacha Sauda. Asadudin Owaisi has rightly highlighted these examples and hence the discrepancy.  If State support to Muslim pilgrimage is a Muslim appeasement, is this not Hindu appeasement? But they won’t dare touch the other side. Not because they can’t but that will make them secular in this regard; unbecoming of a Hindu government. The cost for ‘secularism of India’ is to be borne by the minorities, especially the Muslims.

All this is not new, but to keep track of such developments is the least one can do. The credit, however, should go to them for being open, rather brash, in doing whatever they do. They do things and then take pride in it and wear it on their sleeve. At least, there’s no hypocrisy. It’s pure majoritarianism at the cost of denigrating a minority.

 

Great Kashmir