Minister for Food and Civil Supplies U T Khader has welcomed the Centre's decision to end subsidy to Haj pilgrims.
"In reality, subsidy was not benefiting the individual pilgrims," said the minister.
Addressing reporters here on Wednesday, he said that it was Air India which was benefiting from the subsidy. "While giving Haj subsidy, the government had restricted the pilgrims to travel only by Air India flight. Now, the Haj pilgrims can travel by any cheaper airways as well," explained Khader. "There was a feeling that the Centre is engaged in appeasing the minorities through subsidy to Haj pilgrims. The Haj pilgrimage is mandatory for those who are financially stable. Anyone who wishes to go on a Haj pilgrimage will arrange money for it and go," he added.
The Supreme Court had, in 2012, directed the Centre to gradually reduce and abolish the Haj subsidy by 2022. The apex court wanted the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year then to be utilised for educational and social development of the community.
To a query, he said, "The Centre has no role to play in restricting the number of pilgrims going for Haj. It is the Saudi Arabia government which issues quota for each country. Accordingly, the Centre issues the quota for each state, depending on the list of pilgrims who wish to go on a Haj pilgrimage."