Haj subsidy should be continued, says Congress
Thiruvananthapuram : The Congress' Kerala unit on Tuesday demanded that the central government should continue with the Haj subsidy, terming its removal yet another of its acts against the minority community. Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy termed it as the most unfortunate and called for it to be reversed.
"Giving subsidy for Haj is historically relevanA and has been going on for ages. This is a clear act of targeting the minority community and will disturb the secular fabric of our country and hence should be reversed," he said.
The Narendra Modi-led central government on Tuesday announced it had decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds of thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage with Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying it was in line with the government's agenda to empower minorities without appeasing them.
He said the government would utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for education of minorities, particularly girls. The government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in phased manner after the Supreme Court asked it in 2012 to withdraw it gradually by 2022.
This year as total of 10,981 Haj pilgrims from Kerala were supposed to benefit through the subsidy.
State Congress president M.M. Hassan said that this is the latest example of the attitude of the Centre towards the minority community, adding that subsidy has been on since the days of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Of the 3.34 crore Kerala population (1.61 crore males and 1.73 females), Muslims comprises 88.73 lakh - 41.76 lakh males and 46.97 lakh females.
State Haj Committee chairman Thodiyur Moulavi however said that now that this has been stopped, the Centre should see that the airlines stop exploitation by charging high fares.
"If they are able to do that, then it's fine. However the decision to divert the subsidy amount to provide education to Muslim girls, is nothing but a ploy to project an image that this government is for the welfare of Muslim women, will not stand," he said.
Senior woman Congress leader Shanimol Usman said the Centre has again proved of how things can be done in haste.
"The decision to divert the subsidy for providing Muslim girls education can only be seen with extreme caution as if one looks into what this government has done so far, proves they have messed up everything," she said.
Former state BJP president V.Muraleedharan however said the Congress is just playing "appeasement politics" to please the Muslim community.
"Providing subsidy for just one community destroys the principles of secularism and the decision to use this subsidy for the education needs of the Muslim girls is most welcome," he said.