Muslim MPs demand withdrawal of subsidy on Haj travel
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Last Updated: Monday, March 07, 2011, 18:27
New Delhi: Several Muslim MPs on Monday demanded withdrawal of the subsidy on Haj travel and instead suggested long-term agreements with airlines to provide better facilities and cheaper fares for people from the country who go for the annual pilgrimage.

The MPs also demanded better accommodation facilities for the pilgrims at Saudi Arabia and doing away with the practice of granting travellers with temporary passports for the pilgrimage and providing them with permanent passports instead.

The MPs from various parties on Monday interacted with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna here on ways to improve Haj travel.

"We do not need subsidy. It is like an alm which we do not need...a long-term policy should be evolved where subsidy can be withdrawn. We can set up a corporation on the lines of Malaysia to handle Haj travel. The powers of the corporation should be centralised and not divided as is the case now," RLD's Rajya Sabha MP Mehmood A Madni said after the meeting.

Expressing similar sentiments, BJP's Lok Sabha member Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said subsidy has no meaning as the middlemen make profit out of it instead of the common man who goes to perform Haj.

"The airlines provide poor services to the Hajis ...their luggage is lost and so on," he said.

A senior Congress MP, who was present in the meeting, said the issue of withdrawal of subsidy and replacing it with a long-term arrangement with airlines to provide better services prevailed in the meeting which lasted over two hours.

Some said private airlines should be roped in to provide better facilities and the airlift should not be restricted to the national carrier.

Hussain said he raised the issue of providing the pilgrims with permanent passports.

"The practice now is to provide them (those who do not have a permanent passport) with temporary passports. Once you are issuing them with a passport, why not provide a permanent one," he said.

Several MPs also said the government should reach a long-term understanding with owners of accommodation in Saudi Arabia so that Hajis can get to stay at places near the pilgrimage site so that they do not have to walk for kilometres in scorching heat.

The issue of MEA keeping Haj quotas with it was also raised in the meeting with members saying that the Ministry should keep minimum share and distribute most of it with states based upon their population.


First Published: Monday, March 07, 2011, 18:27

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