Minority leaders cautious to apex court ruling on Haj

Lucknow, May 8: Muslim community leaders and prominent clerics in Uttar Pradesh Tuesday reacted cautiously to the Supreme Court ruling directing the government to eliminate in the next 10 years the subsidy being given to the Hajis – pilgrims to the holy Mecca.

While most of them were circumspect on how the subsidy would be “phased out” as prescribed by the apex court in a time frame of ten years, clerics said they had no objection to the decision as they were themselves demanding for a long time that the subsidy by the union government be withdrawn.

Talking to IANS, Sunni community leader Haji Khalid Rasheed said they had in the past asked the government to withdraw the subsidy but with some riders. “We have asked the government to axe the subsidy but to alternately follow it up with open tendering of air tickets,” he said.

If the air tickets, which are priced somewhere between Rs.1.2 lakh-1.5 lakh every year during the Haj period, are released through open tendering (right now only Air India has the ticketing monopoly), the ticket prices would come down heavily, Rashid said. This, he added, would be a bigger relief than the subsidy actuals.

Shia Cleric Kalbe Jawwad said the apex court was “not within its rights to make laws” as it was a custodian of laws, meant to oversee implementation of laws made by parliament. “We have to study the ruling and to see that the ruling does not hit the poor Muslims who would be deprived of their holy Haj if the subsidy is withdrawn,” he told IANS.

Wasim Ahmad, state minister for basic education, said he was “feeling let down” by the Supreme Court ruling and said this would deprive the poor Muslims of their Haj pilgrimage. “What can I say on this, it is sad… but then it is that way that the SC works,” he mused.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam Tuesday directed the government to eliminate the subsidy for Haj pilgrims in the next 10 years. The court also directed that the goodwill delegation sent by the government every year to Mecca should now be scaled down to two from its present strength of 30.

IANS