The issue seems to have been simmering on the boil since a 2 judge bench of Justice Aftab Alam, in the year 2012 ordered the government of India to do away with Haj subsidies in 10 years time. Prior to this a bench of Justice Markandey Katju declared the provision of subsidies on Haj travel as very well within the meaning and scope of Article 27 of the Constitution of India.
There is a final farewell to the issue of subsidies to Haj pilgrims, while the political discourse is now being dominated with all kinds of heated debates over communalism.
The case is not one of Communalism, but is a case of stripping Air India of all kinds of emoluments it received from the State. Air India has been the only carrier to have ferried passengers from India to Mecca and Medina. The majority sources of earnings for Air India came from the fare subsidy that the government paid directly to the company, meanwhile rest of the charges were taken by the Saudi government. Leaving no actual benefits arising to the one taking pilgrimage. The future of the discourse has been around many political parties trying to appease Muslims by attacking the subsidies given to Hindu pilgrims by the states governed by BJP, or the Jerusalem subsidy given to Christians by the Tamil Nadu government.
The Quran does not mandate pilgrimage to Mecca, and it expresses that only those, who have been bestowed with the necessary financial capability to undertake the Haj, while the others aren’t. The Haj subsidy dates back to 1932, which has been the oldest surviving patronization to a particular community.
Haj subsidy was often viewed as a minority appeasement tactic, and the pilgrimage subsidies being offered to other communities has been described as a backlash to the Haj subsidy.
While the media may declare openly that no benefits accrued to the one undertaking pilgrimage, the over all expenditure incurred was considerably reduced. The subsidy added a burden on limited funds at bay for the betterment of the minorities, as we see today, that instead on investing heavily on providing modern education to Muslims, the State had been busy providing them subsidies for going on Haj.
The monies thus saved from subsidies shall now be utilised for creating a better environment in the madarsas and also provide other opportunities that make the Musims of India more mainstream and secure.
The argument that the State must do away any religious subsidies is one founded on a sane logic that religion must be dissociated from the polity, but the fact that the amount spent on Hindu pilgrimages is a very small figure as compared to that of the Haj subsidy. Also. many people in the old age, who have at least half the needed funds undertake Chaar Dham Yatra.
The states have laid down stringent norms while selecting people for Hindu pilgrimages, and only the elderly are allowed. This makes the argument weak, though there must be a dissociation of religion from State, thus any kind of state support to pursue one’s spiritual inclinations is opposed.