India

Govt forms panel to look into Haj subsidy issue

Govt forms panel to look into Haj subsidy issue

New Delhi: A day after Saudi Arabia increased India’s annual Haj quota, the Centre today formed a six-member committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing subsidy given to pilgrims by 2022, sources said.

The committee, inter alia, will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of such subsidy, they added.

“Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has already formed a high-level committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue. The committee will look into whether giving subsidy has benefits or can pilgrims travel paying less if there no subsidy is offered,” a source said.

The committee will engage all the stakeholders concerned before submitting its report, they added.

The sources said that official announcement regarding formation of the panel is expected in the next few days.

In the biggest hike in nearly three decades, Saudi Arabia had yesterday increased India’s annual Haj quota by 34,500, a move welcomed by the NDA government as a “matter of pleasure”.

Naqvi and Saudi Arabia’s Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten inked an agreement in this regard in Jeddah yesterday, increasing the size of India’s Haj quota from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520.

The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022.

It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year then on educational and social development of the community.