India decision to lift Hajj subsidy under spotlight
India decision to lift Hajj subsidy under spotlight
Last week Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced the end of the Hajj subsidy. “The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government has ended appeasement and vote bank politics, which have been going on for the last several years,” he said. “Our policy is empowerment without appeasement and development with dignity for all sections of the society.”
Muslim bodies called it “the fulfillment of the long-standing demand.”
“The government is indulging in half-truth. The Hajj subsidy would have lapsed anyway by 2022, according to a Supreme Court ruling in 2012, but the government is taking a high moral ground, which is in a bad taste,” said Navaid Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a federation of Muslims organization.
“The Hajj subsidy has never been beneficial for Muslims; it was meant to save the ailing national carrier Air India,” he said.
He urged the Indian government to “allow open bidding for travel to Saudi Arabia for Muslims who want to go there for Hajj. Why should 175,000 Muslims every year be condemned to choose only Air India? It’s an undeclared tax on the Muslim community.” Nevertheless the move showed “BJP’s sectarian mindset and blatant majoritarian politics,” he said.
New-Delhi based academic at the Indian Society of International Law, Anwar Sadat, said: “The political cost of the Hajj subsidy was really huge. The BJP and the Hindu right-wing parties always exploited it to serve their majoritarian political agenda.”
Sixty-eight-year-old Nabizan Ahmad, who went for Hajj three years ago, argues that if the government wants to display genuine “inclusive practice” then it should “stop facilitating and funding a free ride to Hindu pilgrims to different places of worship.”
In India many state governments (both BJP and non-BJP ruled states) give subsidies to Hindu pilgrims. Last year, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, announced a reward of 100,000 rupees ($1,600) for Hindu pilgrims who wanted to go to Kailash Mansarovar, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site on the Tibetan plateau.
“If it is appeasement to subsidize pilgrims to Makkah, is it empowerment to subsidize pilgrims to Mansarovar, Ayodhya, and other such places considered holy to Hindus?” asked Brinda Karat, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI-M.
Karat wrote in an article that “the central government has terminated the subsidy for Hajj completely within five years, which is a violation of the Supreme Court directions, even as state governments headed by the BJP-RSS are increasing subsidies for Hindu pilgrims.”
But BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal denies “any kind of targeting of Muslims by ending Hajj subsidy.”
He told Arab News: “We followed the Supreme Court’s order and the desire of the Muslim community.”
However, he refused to call the money spent on Hindu pilgrims a subsidy, describing it as “expenses for logistics,” and said those who were questioning it were “communalizing the whole atmosphere.”
Aateka Khan, an academic at Delhi University, said: “If you look at the sequence of events from (the abolishment) of triple talaq (instant divorce) onwards, you will see a systematic targeting of the Muslim minority by the Modi government.”
“The PM speaks of tolerance and peaceful existence but he is actually consolidating Hindu votes by targeting Muslims and depicting them in a wrong way,” Khan told Arab News.
EU has more pressing priorities than Brexit — French finance minister
- EU leaders last week rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals for post-Brexit trade
- Paris is reluctant to let Britain’s EU divorce talks drag on
PARIS: The EU has more pressing priorities than Britain’s future relationship with the bloc, starting with its own future, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
EU leaders last week rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals for post-Brexit trade, standing firm on their position that the plan would undermine their cherished single market.
“The British made their choice, that’s fine. Excuse me to say so brutally, but there are more important things for us than the future of the United Kingdom. It’s the future of the European Union,” Le Maire told a small group of foreign journalists on Tuesday.
“Any decision that gives European citizens the impression that you can leave the European Union and keep all the advantages would be suicidal,” he added.
He said the priority was to strengthen the euro zone, notably by completing plans for a backstop for its bank resolution fund and creating a shared budget, so that it could cope with a new financial or economic crisis.
Paris is reluctant to let Britain’s EU divorce talks drag on and President Emmanuel Macron said last week that he expected Britain to put forward new proposals next month.
May has insisted she is sticking with her “Chequers” plan, despite fierce opposition from some in her party. She has complained that the EU had not given her detailed reasons for its rebuff.
Macron’s cabinet is holding meetings every two weeks to ensure practical preparations are in place should Britain leave the EU without a post-Brexit agreement in place.
Le Maire said far more was at stake for Britain as all estimates indicated Brexit would have only a limited impact on French economic growth.