Azam Khan writes to Centre against curtailing of Haj subsidy



Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Haj Minister Azam Khan has written a letter to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid asking him to reconsider the Centre's decision to provide subsidy to Haj pilgrims once in a lifetime as against the earlier policy of once in five years.

In April last year, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it had decided to restrict Haj pilgrimage at government subsidy to Muslims only as a "once in a lifetime" affair.

Azam has also asked the Union minister to address problems being faced by pilgrims in getting passport, an official spokesman said here.

"In such a case, if a person had completed Haj then his wife, mother or any other female relative would be deprived from going on pilgrimage," Azam said in the letter.

"Thought should have been given before framing such a policy," he said.

On May 8 last year, the Supreme Court had directed the government to eliminate Haj subsidy within 10 years, saying that this amount can be used for social and educational development of Muslims.

Raising other problems being faced by Haj pilgrims Azam said, "Currently, in order to get a passport a person has to take appointment by applying online through passport seva kendra, which opens only for an hour."

The website operates very slow and applicants could not get appointment even after standing in a queue at cyber cafe for hours, he said.

The minister said that even if a person gets appointment, he was given a time after a month.

It is hard for poor people of villages and less educated to get the work done technically and through hitech technique.

Azam said that UP committee was of the view that with once in a lifetime restriction and problem in getting passport a large number of applicants would not be able to meet deadline of March 20 to submit application form and would be deprived from the pilgrimage.

He requested the Union minister to direct the passport officials in the state to facilitate Haj pilgrims in getting passport.

Azam said that for the pilgrims a separate format "application forms for Haj pilgrims" should be created on which an affidavit should be taken that passport was required only for Haj.

He said that to deposit forms of the pilgrims separate counters should be set up at the passport offices, where nodal offices should be nominated.

Only Rs 500 should be charged as documentation charges from the pilgrims and police and local intelligence unit report should be done in 10 days, he demanded in the letter.

Azam said that a special passport should be issued for the period of one year. PTI

PTI