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The Haj subsidy is an airfare subsidy given to Indian ḥaǧǧ (often spelled Haj or Hajj) pilgrims. Pilgrims applying through the Haj Committee of India are offered the concessionary fare. The Government of India pays the subsidy to Air India.
In 2007 the Haj subsidy paid by the Indian government was 5.95 billion rupees, and for 2008 it was Rs. 7 billion. Since 1994 the round trip cost to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has been fixed at Rs. 12,000 per pilgrim, and the government has footed the rest of the bill. In 2007 this difference came to Rs. 47,454 per passenger.
Considerable criticism has been leveled against this practice, both by Hindu organizations opposed to state funding of private pilgrimage outside India and by Muslim pressure groups. As an example of the latter, Mohib Ahmad contends that even Air India's subsidized fare is higher than competing airlines' ordinary fare. However, the government has continued offering the Haj subsidy despite protests from the Muslim community at large. After B.N. Shukla and former BJP Rajya Sabha member Prafull Goradiya filed Public Interest Litigation seeking to end Haj subsidies by declaring government funding of pilgrimages outside India to be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of India decided to permit the Haj subsidy to continue, citing the example of the far smaller subsidies (Rs 200 per person) provided for pilgrims to Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.
- ↑ Press Information Bureau, "Hajj operation in India 2006", December 2006, accessed 26 June 2009.
- ↑ Shauvik Ghosh, "Haj subsidy has Air India fuming", The Financial Express, 13 September 2008, accessed 26 June 2009
- ↑ Mohib Ahmad, "Haj Subsidy, Anyone?", Indian Muslims blog, 18 January 2006, accessed 25 June 2009.
- ↑ "Supreme Court clears Haj subsidy for this year", The Hindu, 22 January 2008, accessed 26 June 2009.
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