Muslim bodies demand competitive bidding for Haj travel

Prime News, National (New Delhi), January 18:- A day after the Narendra Modi government announced the withdrawal of Haj subsidy, prominent Muslim organisations, including Jamat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, on Wednesday reiterated their demand for competitive bidding among airlines to ferry Haj pilgrims between Delhi and Jeddah.

The Muslim bodies unanimously said that the money in the name of Haj subsidy — that amounted around Rs 200 crore last year — went to Air India only and that Muslim pilgrims did not get any direct benefit from it.

JIH Secretary General Muhammad Salim Engineer said the “abrupt” withdrawal of subsidy “is bound to increase the overall cost” of performing Haj which will impact many pilgrims from the poor and deprived sections of society.

“A false impression is being created that this subsidy was an appeasement of the Muslim community and a drag on taxpayers’ money. But the reality is that this subsidy was a payment taken from the Indian Hajis and given to the national carrier Air India, which had a monopoly for ferrying Hajis to Saudi Arabia,” Salim said.

“We urge the government to spell out how it plans to permit other airlines to fly Hajis from India given the exorbitant prices Air India charges Indian pilgrims. The government must float a global tender for hiring an airline for Haj,” he added.

AIMPLB General Secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani said he could not understand why Air India charged something between Rs 65,000 to over Rs one lakh from Indian Haj pilgrims, depending upon the embarkation point, for a return ticket to Jeddah. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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