Mumbai: Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday called press to make public the "revised" Haj airfares which will be applicable in 2018. The revised airfares are announced after the abolition of "millions of rupees" which the successive governments in India have been "doling out" to Muslims in the name of “Haj Subsidy”.
While announcing the Haj 2018 revised airfares, Naqvi said that the decision to cut the airfares will end “political and economic exploitation” of Haji pilgrims “as was done during the Congress-led UPA regime”. To drive home the point, Naqvi compared the Haj airfares fixed during the erstwhile UPA regime and the ones revised for this year.
Naqvi sounded smart by doing this. However a comparison of the revised airfares with the one in 2017 reveals that the Modi government has actually hiked the airfares for Haj 2018 and to hide this fact Naqvi compared the revised Haj airfares with what air carriers were paid in 2013-14.
While announcing the new airfares, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi claimed that the airfare for Haj from Mumbai will be Rs 57,857 instead of Rs 98,750 in 2013-2014 under the Congress-led UPA government. He also said that airfare from Ahmedabad is reduced to Rs 65,015 this year from Rs 98,750 in 2013-14.
A comparison of the new airfare for Mumbai and Ahmedabad Haj embarkation points reveals that the new airfares are actually more than what the air carriers were paid in 2017. According to a signed copy of the Haj Committee of India records, shared with ummid.com by member of the Haj Committee Malegaon Haroon Aashiq Ali, Mumbai to Jeddah airfares in 2017 was 53,704 and Ahmedabad to Jeddah airfare was 59,097.
“It clearly shows that the new airfares from the two embarkation points are actually Rs 5000 (approximately) more than the one charged to Haj pilgrims in 2017”, Haroon Aashiq Ali said. “The hike in the revised Haj airfare from Delhi, Aurangabad, Srinagar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Gaya, Chennai, Bengaluru, Bhopal and embarkation points in other cities are even more.”
Modi government has fixed airfare of Rs 71,853 from Delhi, it was 62,065 in 2017. Similarly, airfares from Aurangabad and Srinagar were also fixed as Rs 62,065 in 2017. But, they have now been revised to Rs 84,946 and Rs 101,400 in 2018 – a massive hike of Rs 22,000 from Aurangabad and an increase of about 40,000 rupees from Srinagar, the Haj Committee of India records show.
According to the Haj Committee of India records, 2017 airfares from Kolkata, Lucknow, Gaya, Chennai, Bengaluru and Bhopal embarkation points were all fixed as Rs 62,065. The government however increased the Haj airfares from all these places by more than 27,000 from Kolkata, about 17,000 from Lucknow, about 37,000 from Gaya, more than 15,000 from Chennai, more than 20,000 from Bengaluru and more than 29,000 from Bhopal embarkation point.
The Haj pilgrims from RSS headquarter Nagpur and those from Prime Minister Modi’s constituency Varanasi have also not been spared by the government. Haj pilgrims from these two places had paid Rs 62,065 for air travel in 2017. However the new Haj airfare from Nagpur is Rs 70,680 and from Varanasi is Rs 92,004 – a hike of Rs 8,615 and Rs 29,939 respectively, the Haj Committee of India records if compared with the airfares announced by Naqvi show.
The airfares of pilgrims going to Haj from Hyderabad, Ranchi, Cochin, Guwahati, Jaipur, Indore and Mangalore embarkation points have also been increased, totally in contrast to Naqvi’s claim of “remarkable, historic and massive” reduction in airfares.
Revised airfares more than the double the regular
The Haj 2018 revised airfares are again more than the double the regular fair the air carriers normally charge to passengers. A quick search of airfares as on today from Mumbai to Jeddah is between Rs 15,000 to a maximum of Rs 25,000 depending on the time of booking.
According to travel agents, ticket prices for New Delhi to Jeddah flights usually start around Rs 17000, offered by Air Arabia. A non-stop flight on this route costs around Rs 25,000. On the other hand, Fly Dubai offers the cheapest business class ticket for Rs 27,500.
The Haj airfares during the month of Ramadan and in Haj season are increased, but, they have never been more than Rs 45,000, a travel agent said while talking to ummid.com. “Discounts for bulk booking and if it is done in advance is always there”, he said.
The Myth of Haj Subsidy
The question which arises if we believe Naqvi’s claim of “massive reduction” in airfares even after the “Haj subsidy” has been abolished is when the airfares with and without the subsidy are more or less the same, then where the “Haj subsidy” amount was going? How the Muslims were “unfairly doled out the taxpayers’ money” as always been claimed by RSS, BJP and their affiliates?
Naqvi would have found hard to answer these questions had he done a fair comparison of Haj airfares. For, a thorough analysis of the revised as well as the earlier airfares is enough to expose the myth of “Haj Subsidy”, and vindicate the claim that the Haj subsidy was never utilized for the benefit of Haj pilgrims. Instead, the air carriers charged inflated airfares and funds released in the name of Haj subsidy were actually used to help the cash strapped Air India.
Interestingly, Naqvi’s claim of “massive reduction” in airfares came even as the Supreme Court of India is hearing a petition which among other things has also demanded calling global tender for air travels of Haj pilgrims so that the unjust and inflated airfares which the current air-carriers are charging are checked.
[Aleem Faizee is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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