Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on 16 January 2018 announced the Centre would phase out subsidies for the annual Haj pilgrimage, two months after his Ministry had taken the decision. It is part of the Modi government’s efforts to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement.
The Centre’s decision followed a 2012 Supreme Court order asking that subsidies for the Haj be phased out by 2022 and the money saved (around Rs. 450 crore annually) diverted to more welfare-oriented activities. Political parties reminded the government of the caveat in the court order that the funds should be spent on welfare.
A new Haj policy, formulated by a committee headed by former bureaucrat Afzal Amanullah had also suggested that women Hajis be allowed to perform the pilgrimage without male escort, or mehram. In a first, a batch of over 1300 women will perform the annual pilgrimage of Haj from India without a mehram this year.