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Muslim MPs demand withdrawal of subsidy on Haj travel

Several Muslim MPs on Monday demanded withdrawal of the subsidy on Haj travel.

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

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can be withdrawn.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.