The Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) has restrained the Federal and State Governments from subsidizing Yatra expenses for the Haj and other pilgrimages leaving politicians using these sops as ways to create and retain vote banks in quandary.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) Urban Development Minister and U.P. Haj Committee Chairman Azam Khan, who had earlier announced a bounty to kill Dutch cartoonists for their depiction of Prophet Mohammed in distasteful manner, admitted the government has not made any decision to deal with the fallout.
Apparently, the petition asking the court to bar such patronage was filed in 1995 but the State Government had not responded to the petition for 11 years. Muslims say that they are not the only beneficiaries from such handouts citing cases of Government grants for the Kumba Mela and Amarnath Yatra. However, the difference is that while the Haj subsidy benefits individuals, who are not always poor or first time travelers, the monies spent on Kumba Mela and Amarnath Yatra are for public convenience meant for broader populations and not individuals.
Muslims also want the Government out of the picture and be allowed to strike travel deals with airlines if subsidies are withdrawn for the Haj. This is a fair request and the Government’s only role should be to ensure that law is adhered in the deal so innocent pilgrims are not preyed on by unscrupulous operators.