New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court order to strike down the Centre`s policy of giving Haj subsidies, Muslim Members of Parliament on Tuesday sought an arrangement which will directly benefit the pilgrims and improve standards of the minority community.
"The Haj subsidy of Rs 600 crore is given to Air India and not pilgrims... Under this garb of subsidy, it (money) is going to Air India which is a sick airline," Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi told reporters outside Parliament.
Reacting to the apex court order, Owaisi said, "This Rs 600 crore should be invested in education of minority girls because their education standards are very very low."
Congress MP Saifuddin Soz also welcomed the decision and said, "Right Wing extremists also opposed this (Haj subsidy) and the Ulemas also called it Un-Islamic."
For better facilities to the pilgrims, he sought a corporation for the purpose.
Owaisi asked the government to renegotiate the agreement with Saudi Arabia under which only Air India and Saudi Airline are allowed to carry passengers for Haj. "You renegotiate it, call a global tender, the prices will come down," he said.
He further stated that only the rich Muslims are able to go to Haj. "Muslims who go to Haj... Only those Muslims can go (there) who are financially and economically well off. Those who are not financially well off cannot go there."
Owaisi has been opposing the Haj subsidy in various forums including the Presidential Debate and had recommended this during his General Budget speech in March.
"This Rs 600 crore is of no use, it has no political significance. We welcome it, why 10 years it should be removed immediately," he said.
Soz said, "20 Muslim leaders, including myself, have
petitioned to GoI that the subsidy should be withdrawn, and instead of it they should set up a corporation on the lines of one in Malaysia, which will be more advantageous for the pilgrims."
The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a Bombay High Court judgement which had directed the External Affairs Ministry to allow certain private operators to handle 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government.
Striking down the subsidy, the apex court directed that it be progressively "eliminated" within a period of 10 years.