'Subsidized Hajj once in lifetime'

SC Pulls Up Central Govt For Sending Official Delegation With Pilgrims


New Delhi, Apr 15: The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to restrict Hajj pilgrimage at government subsidy to Muslims only as a “once in a lifetime” affair as against the existing policy of “once in five years”.
 In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the government said the new guidelines have been framed to ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Hajj.
 “This is a major change introduced for the first time. Restrict the number of pilgrimages to a Hajj applicant through HCOI (Hajj Committee of India) to ‘once in a lifetime’ as against the existing ‘once in five years’. This will ensure that the Haji will benefit from government subsidy only once in his/her lifetime. It will also ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Hajj,” the Centre said.
 The government, however, refrained from disclosing the amount of subsidy being incurred by it for 2012 saying, “The exact figure in respect of the travel subsidy to the pilgrims going through Hajj Committee of India for 2012 will be known after the Hujjaj completed their Hajj journey and return to India.”
 According to the government, priority will be given to those who are in the 70 plus category and those who had unsuccessfully applied thrice earlier for the subsidy.
 The Centre’s affidavit comes in the backdrop of certain searching questions raised by the apex court on February 24.
 A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai had directed the Centre to provide details of subsidy given by it and criteria adopted for allocation of seats to state committees.
 About 1.70 lakh pilgrims from India would perform Hajj this year as per the quota prescribed by the government of Saudi Arabia. While around 1.25 lakh of them would be travelling through the statutory Haj Committee, the remaining 45,000 would be using the services of private tour operators.
 The apex court frowned at the practice of sending official delegations to accompany the pilgrims and had asked the Centre to furnish entire details regarding Hajj subsidy, as also to the criteria adopted.
 The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a Bombay High Court judgment which had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to allow certain private operators to operate the services of 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidized by the government.
 Earlier, the bench had pulled up the Centre’s practice of “politicizing” the annual Hajj pilgrimage by permitting official delegations to accompany the pilgrims, for which the government offers huge subsidy, saying, “It’s a bad religious practice.” WITH INPUTS FROM PTI

Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 16 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST

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