THE Union Cabinet has gone ahead with the Haj subsidy for 2012. It has approved the following-
(i) 125,000 haj pilgrims would be covered by the Haj subsidy scheme.
(ii) Apart from statutory taxes like PSF, UDF, ADF and Saudi airport fees, each pilgrims would pay Rs. 20,000 as air fare. The balance cost of air travel arrangements would be borne by the government.
(iii) The pilgrims would depart from 21 embarkation points in India. Gaya as an embarkation point has been introduced in place of Patna due to technical difficulties presently in operating direct flights from Patna.
This year the Haj flights would start on 17.9.2012.
The element of cost of air travel arrangements in excess of the fare paid by the pilgrims is the Haj subsidy borne by the Government, which is called Haj subsidy. Untill 2009, the pilgrims were carried by Saudi Arabian Airlines on negotiated fares and by Air India on cost basis. From 2010, the government decided to select the airlines through a tendering process. Sealed bids are invited from all eligible airlines and the airline offering the lowest fare from an embarkation point is engaged to carry the haj pilgrims.
It’s noteworthy that the practice has received considerable criticism in the past from Muslim leaders, both on grounds of inflated air fares and being un-Islamic.