HYDERABAD: Haj is the journey of a lifetime for all practising Muslims. As such, the Supreme Court’s order that the government should phase out Haj subsidy over the next 10 years has some Muslims worried in the city. Though the ruling won’t affect the ‘Qurrah’ or draw of lots that will be held on May 10 to select the pilgrims, a few are concerned that if they miss it now, they may not get a chance again. There are others, though, who are not concerned.
“It is a once in lifetime opportunity for us and subsidies or not, we will go,” says Danish Ahmed who will be accompanying his parents to the Haj this year. A large chunk of the subsidies are routed to Air India for flying pilgrims to Mecca and the common observation is that the rollback will not pinch the pocket. The subsidies for the Haj pilgrims cover the cost for lodging and transportation in the city of Mecca and the amount of subsidy comes up to Rs 40,000 per person. “The amount charged for category-A pilgrims which includes those who have crossed 70 years of age is Rs 1.3 lakh per person while that for category-B pilgrims is Rs 1.15 lakh per head. Phasing out the subsidies will hit only a few pilgrims who put their lifetime’s savings for undertaking Haj. Further, since the Haj should be performed by only those who are mentally, physically and financially stable, it is not binding on everybody to perform the pilgrimage,” said Sahukat Ali Khan, public relations officer at the Andhra Pradesh State Haj Committee.
Though the order is unlikely to affect many, some feel the subsidies were an advantage for those with a tight budget. “The government subsidy covers lodging and subsidy but one has to eat outside. Also, private tour operators charge anywhere between Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per head. Though they provide better services, it is better to avail the subsidy as Haj must be performed with the family and saving close to Rs 40,000 per person means a lot for a middle class family,” opines Aman-Ullah who availed the government subsidy for performing Haj in 2009.
The impact of a rollback on Haj subsidy in a state which has a quota of 5,764 pilgrims this year will only be visible after the first batch of pilgrims complete their journey. “It is difficult to talk about the impact till the governemnt issues clear guidelines on the modalities of implementation by the Haj Committee,” said Syed Khaliluddin Ahmed Chairman of AP Haj Committee.