Muslim thinker: Government should withdraw Haj subsidy
Last updated on: October 30, 2012 23:41 IST
‘Politicians make hundreds of promises, many of them false, to trap Muslims,’ Abusaleh Shariff, member, Rajinder Sachar Committee, tells Rediff.com‘s Faisal Kidwai.
“Many Muslims are illiterate and don’t understand the political system, they get trapped,” says Abusaleh Shariff, member, Rajinder Sachar Committee.
Shariff, who is also president, Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, New Delhi [ Images ] and chief scholar of the US-India Policy Institute, Washington DC, tells Rediff.com‘s Faisal Kidwai why he believes Muslims are shortchanged in India [ Images ].
When it comes to social and economic development, are Muslims in India behind other communities?
The Muslims are behind almost all other communities in India. In some areas, such as education and employment, Muslims are even worse than Dalits.
What are some of the major reasons for the Muslims’ underdevelopment?
There are many reasons. First, many of them live in rural areas where services such as schools and job opportunities are not that easily accessible.
Second, even those Muslims who live in cities live in slums and in the periphery of the city. They are confined to their own neighbourhoods and areas where public services are not provided as much as required.
So, if enough public services are provided to Muslim-concentration areas, their economic situation will improve. But this does not mean that services should not be provided to areas that are non-Muslim majority areas. We need broad-based parallel policies to address this lack of services.
If there are more schools, hospitals, etc, in their areas, then they will be more involved and will be in a better position to compete.
There are three charges that are levelled against Muslims: They are pampered by politicians (b) they get a huge Haj subsidy and (c) they have more children than others. What’s your view on these accusations?
Politicians want to use Muslims as vote banks. It’s a trick they play to use them.
Politicians make hundreds of promises, many of them false, to trap the Muslims and, since many Muslims are illiterate and don’t understand the political system, they get trapped.
I am a secular person and believe that the government should not have any role in any religion.
The Haj subsidy is a trap used by politicians to curry Muslim votes. As per Islam, only those people who can afford it should perform Haj.
The Haj subsidy is a form of interference by the government in religion; it should withdraw the subsidy.
The issue of population growth is as old as Independence. At the time of Independence, the fertility rate was high among all communities, including Muslims, Hindus and even Christians; the rate among Muslims was only marginally higher.
During the past 60 years, the fertility rate has dropped across all communities; it has also fallen for Muslims.
In fact, recent data shows that the drop in rate has been higher among Muslims than in any other community.
The birth rate has nothing to do with religion; it has to do with culture. Muslims are also part of the grand Indian culture and they are also changing with the culture.
Are you seeing more Muslims getting educated and coming into the mainstream?
Muslims have similar aspirations as any other community. They want their children to get educated, to move up in the economic chain and become part of the political system. They have same ambitions and aspirations as anybody in India.
It’s wrong to say that they are not interested in development. I have no reason to believe that Muslims are less patriotic than any other community.
Go to the rural areas in Uttar Pradesh [ Images ]. You will see that the Muslims there want education for their children, but the government has failed to construct schools and colleges.
Instead of constructing schools and colleges, the government is providing for madrassas and modernisation of madrassas. This is wrong because madrassas are religious institutions and the government should not play any role in them.
Religious schools like madrassas create segregation and that is bad for Muslims and the country.
The Web site of the ministry of human resources talks only about madrassa modernisation in the name of Muslims; the government should do better than that.
Don’t you think the Muslims too are to be blamed for their present situation?
The Constitution has provided certain guarantees. It’s the government’s job to provide primary education and healthcare.
Take immunisation, for instance. The government has to provide immunisation not only to Muslims, but to all people. It has to bring the immunisation programme to everybody.
The government has to create awareness and sensitise and inform people instead of blaming Muslims or saying that Muslims are not interested. It has to make them participatory, a stakeholder in the programme. This is true for every community.
The Dalits were backward, but the government created educational and employment programmes for them. Now, the Dalits are in a much better socio-economic position than they were a couple of decades ago.
Providing basic services is the duty of the government. If the government is discharging its duties properly, then we do not need special programmes or reservations for Dalits or anybody.
The failure to provide services shows that the government is discriminatory against Muslims and, by government, I mean the system.
Photograph courtesy: Abusaleh Shariff
By Japan K Pathak, 24 October, 2011
While Haj yatra is on and 6,000 Haj yatris are in process to leave for Haj from Ahmedabad airport, following details about Haj yatra and central government’s spending on Haj yatra are interesting. In this article, there’s also a comparison between the figures of central government’s spending for Haj yatra and for Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
In March 2011, in reply to a question asked by Lok Sabha member Shri Setti Raju alias Devappa Anna about budgetary provisions made and utilized by the Government on pilgrimage to Haj, Kailash Mansarovar and other religious places during the last three years and the current year, central External affairs minister Paramjit Kaur Gulshan replied: “The Government of India makes exhaustive arrangements to facilitate the pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia through the Haj Committee of India and facilitates provision of accommodation and other logistical support for them.”
She further said, “Doctors, Nurses and other paramedical staff, Coordinators, Assistant Haj Officers, Haj Assistants and Khadim-ul-Hujjaj are sent from India on short-term deputation to Saudi Arabia. A hospital in Makkah and branch offices – cum – dispensaries in Makkah and Madina are set up for Haj pilgrims.”
She added, “the Haj Committee of India is providing to the pilgrims information regarding confirmation of their seats, travel documents, transportation, etc. For Haj-2010, two more embarkation points viz Bhopal and Goa were added to the already existing 19 embarkation points spread across the country. With effect from Haj – 2010, seats are being allotted on confirmed basis to those applicants who have been rejected continuously for last three years in Qurrah.It is the constant endeavor of the Government to keep making improvements in the arrangements made for the Haj pilgrims and provide them with better facilities after taking into account the feedback received from all concerned.”
The minister gave following detail about central government’s expenses for Haj.
Expenditure on Haj
|2007-08||Rs. 27 .01 crores||Rs. 32.30 crore|
|2008-09||Rs. 34. 56 crores||Rs. 32.82 crore|
|2009-10||Rs. 37.82 crores||Rs. 30.49 crore|
|2010-11 (till February 2011)||Rs. 41.89 crores||Rs. 28.86 crore|
However the figures presented above do not cover the subsidy expenses.
The detail of subsidy figures is actually available from another answer given to Lok Sabha MP Radhey Mohan Singh, by minister of overseas Indian affairs and civil aviation Shri Vayalar Ravi on 9 March, 2011.
The minister stated: “Ministry of Civil Aviation makes arrangements for air travel of pilgrims proceeding for Haj through Haj Committee of India. For Haj 2008 and 2009, each adult pilgrim paid Rs.12000/- as fare and Rs.16000/- for Haj 2010 for Haj Charter Flight. The balance cost of operating Haj Charter Flights was borne by the Government. State-wise figures of cost are not maintained. The provisional total cost (including Service Tax) and per pilgrim cost borne by the Government for last three years is as under”
Year – 2007 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 476.74 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 43,340
Year – 2008 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 894.77 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 73,526
Year – 2009 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 689.91 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 57,430
The minister added that for Haj 2010, the Government has so far(means till March 2011) released an amount of Rs.580/- crores towards cost of travel of 1,26,191 pilgrims.
The minister also added: “out of the total airfare, a nominal amount of fare is collected from the Haj pilgrims to make Haj Yatra more affordable. The pilgrims are carried from/to 21 embarkation points in India. This year, except from Srinagar and Patna which had technical constraints, the pilgrims were carried by direct flights. Specific provisions like facilities to be provided to pilgrims before and after boarding of flights, on cancellation/delay of flights, baggage etc. are provided in the MOU signed with the airlines. Assistance of various kinds are also made available during their stay in Saudi Arabia.”
This clearly means that while government spent Rs 73,526 for Haj yatra of each Indian Muslim(in 2008) selected by Haj committee, that Muslim individual on Haj on his own had to spend only Rs 16,000!!
In October 7 this year the Union cabinet approved the following for the Haj 2011 operations:
i) Number of Haj Pilgrims to be covered under the Government subsidy scheme for Haj 2011 to be facilited by the Haj Committee of India is 1,25,000.
ii) Fare to be charged from each of the pilgrims for Haj 2011 is Rs.16,000.
iii) Haj flights would be operated from 21 embarkation points during Haj 2011.
iv) Ex-post facto approval has been given for increasing the number of pilgrims to 1,26,191 for Haj 2010.
A related press release said: “Ministry of Civil Aviation is entrusted with the responsibility of making air travel arrangements for Haj pilgrims proceeding for Haj through the Haj Committee of India. For Haj 2011, Ministry of Civil Aviation has selected the airlines for undertaking Haj Charter flights through sealed tender process. Since only designated airlines of India and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are permitted to carry Haj pilgrims from India to Saudi Arabia, the designated airlines of both the countries were issued the tender notice, Saudi Arabian Airlines and National Air Services (NAS), the two designated airlines of Saudi Arabia emerged L1 for 13 and 8 embarkation points respectively. MoUs have been signed with these airlines for carrying the Haj Pilgrims. The pilgrims would be carried from India to Jeddah/Madina during 29.9.2011 and 31.10.2011 and from Jeddah/Madina to India during 10.11.2011 and 10.12.2011.”
The release further stated: “the number of Haj pilgrims going through the Haj Committee of India is decided by the Ministry of External Affairs which is the nodal Ministry for Haj matters. The cost of air travel of pilgrims undertaking Haj through Haj Committee of India is borne partly by the pilgrims and partly subsidized by the Government of India. The cost/fare to be charged from pilgrims is decided by the Cabinet and collected by the Haj Committee of India and paid to the Government/airlines and the balance cost is borne by the Government, for which a budgetary provision is made in the annual budget of Ministry of Civil Aviation. The number of pilgrims to be covered under this scheme and the number of embarkation points in India from which these pilgrims would board the flights is also decided by the Cabinet every year.”
And spending for Kailash Mansarovar yatra
Now coming back to Lok Sabha MP Shri Setti Raju alias Devappa Anna’s question about Kailash Mansarovar yatra. Following is the table of central government’s expenses for Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
|2007-08||Rs. 97 lakhs||Rs. 97 lakhs|
|2008-09||Rs. 46 lakhs||Rs. 43 lakhs|
|2009-10||Rs. 71 lakhs||Rs. 69 lakhs|
|2010-11||Rs. 95 lakhs||Rs. 93.50 lakhs|
The minister while giving reply about Kailash Mansarovar yatra and central government’s spending for it stated: Government of India has constantly been improving the facilities in India for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. Government of India has also been regularly interacting with the Government of China for improvement of facilities in China at the holy sites of Mount Kailash and Manasarovar Lake.
This entire piece of article shows that while for Kailash Mansarovar yatra, the government of India spends less than one crore per year, the same government spends 28-30 crore for Haj yatris as other than subsidy expenses and 476-690 crore as subsidy every year! What a person on ground gets from this has to be checked. If Rs 16,000 is just one-way, then Haji pays Rs 32,000 for air fare, but even then the govt spends upto Rs 73,000 for that pilgrim on air fare. Another thing is that govt should have spine to stop funding yatras whether it is Kailash Mansarovar or Haj. Question has already been raised in parliament time and again that why Sikhs are not funded for their Pakistan yatra and Christians for their middle east pilgrim tour!
“The one God wears many masks. In no other religion does the Supreme Being wear so many masks and invite worship in so many different forms as the eternal religion of Hinduism. Mythologist Joseph Campbell.
“The Mandirs have to play a significant role in the growth of the Hindu community in terms of its capacity to uphold Hindu Dharma…” Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) and Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi (HDPS) have been started in 2006 with a mission to preserve, practice, propagate and protect Hindu Temples and Sanatana Dharma; and also to take necessary legal and appropriate action to remove all the Hindu Temples from the government control. As many of you are aware that all the Hindu temples earning Rupees 50,000 or more are taken over by the state governments in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In the North all major Temples such as Shiridi Saibaba Temple, Siddhi Vinayaka Temple, Jagannath Temple, Amarnath Temple, Kashi Vishwnath Temple, Vaishno Devi Temple and other money making temples are taken over the respective state governments. They are depleting the resources, selling the temple lands, allowing the temple lands encroached, allotting temple lands for government projects, appropriating huge sums of money for Christians and Muslims, neglecting the maintenance of the Temples, allowing the temples to be dilapidated, closing down thousands and thousand of temples, appointing non-Hindus to the positions in the sacred temples, abusing the devotees who visit these temples, totally ignoring the religious leaders’ input in the management of the Temples, failing to provide adequate facilities for visiting Hind pilgrims to the Temples, diverting funds for private trusts, allowing secular anti-Hindu politicians to inaugurate the facilities at these temples, imposing extra charges on Hindu pilgrims to visit the temples and diverting temple funds to the state treasury at will.
By controlling and siphoning of the Temple resources, the state governments have managed to legalize the rampant corruption. Even within this legalized corruption, different layers of illegal corruption exist in these temples.
Please remember that no Christian Churches or Moslem mosques are under government control. In fact state governments and central government donate huge sums of money for mosques and churches, spend as much as 700 crores of rupees as a subsidy for Moslems to undertake Hajj pilgrimage in 2010, built air conditioned Hajj houses in every state, built separate airport terminals for Hajj pilgrims, and the list goes on. In contrast, not only Hindu pilgrims pay extra charges to visit the temples, they “sleep like beasts” on the side walks to visit their sacred places.
Sri Kamal Kumar Swami conducted two padayatras in Andhra Pradesh covering all the districts in the state to make Hindus aware of their right to manage their temples, and informing them about the government control of the temples, neglect of the temples, rampant corruption in the Temples, and the need for repeal of the Endowment Act. During these padayatras, Sri Swami also talked about the Hindus responsibility to their religion and urging them to go to their village temples on a regular basis along with their family members, regularly conduct bhajans in the temples, celebrate all the festivals, and participate in the maintenance of the temple.
During these travels to thousands of villages, a number of people expressed their interest in having a Templein their own neighborhood so that they can continue to practice their religion, uphold the dharmic way of life, and take the responsibility of managing their temples. They requested our organizations to help build small temples for the convenience of the people. It is during that time the concept of “ONE VILLAGE, ONE TEMPLE, ONE LAKH RUPEES (Rs. 100,000)” was conceived. Since that one Sthapathi was requested to develop the blue prints and sketch of the actual Temple image. Villagers will provide the seva (labor) to build these Temples. In many Dali communities and tribal areas, missionaries are taking advantage of their situation, exploiting them and enticing them. Many of them resist these enticing hooks and want to remain within their traditional faith. But they want to have their own place of worship so that they can feel identified, feel proud, and practice their age-old faith.
Model Village Temple: Architecture and Floor plans
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) and Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi (HDPS) jointly sought the help of Sri Suresh Singh, who is a Diploma holder from TTD Shilpa Kalasala, Tirupati, to draw model Temple plan for villages. His CAD drawings are available on request.
The first project is sponsored by GHHF and HDPS. Anantarayudu Enni, a remote village in Nellore District, was selected to start the initial Project of constructing a Temple. In this remote village about one hundred families belonging to Scheduled Tribe are very religious and worship their Village Deity called Chentamma. Bhumi Pooja (Ground Breaking Ceremony) was conducted and the construction of the Temple has already been started. TTD was requested to donate the Goddess Chentamma to the village.
REQUEST: Sponsor One Hindu Temple for ONE Lakh (Rs. 100,000)
All concerned Hindus are requested to sponsor one Temple in your village or any other village so that we can provide the place of worship for people who are eager, waiting and hoping to practice their faith.
We should give the opportunity for these people to take their children, have darshan of the presiding Deity / Murthi, pray at their time, identify with their gods and goddesses, and make them feel proud of being a Hindu.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Call V. V. Prakasa Rao at 601-918-7111 about this Project to have a Temple in your village.
We need your assistance to continue our mission of abolishing Endowment Act and free Temples from the government control. If we have to make an impact on our movement to bring changes to preserve our culture, we need you financial support. Your generous donations to continue our efforts to free Hindu Temples from government control, and also build Village Temples to awaken the Hindus about the plight of Hindu Temples and the impending danger of illegal conversion techniques are essential. We are requesting all the individuals and organizations to support financially to continue our movement to free Hindu Temples from the government control and stop these conversions also provide needed place of worship for the Villagers.
NOTE: GHHF is exempt from federal income tax in USA under section 501(c) 3 of the Internal Revenue code. Our tax ID # 41-2258630. Please send your tax-deductible donations to:
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation
14726 Harmony Lane, Frisco, Texas 75035
You can go to savetemples.org and pay by PAYPAL
For more information, please visit our website: http://savetemples.org
V. V. Prakasa Rao, PhD, (601-918-7111 cell), (601-856-4783 home); Prasad Yalamanchi (630-832-2665;630-359-5041), D. Satya (732-939-2060): Vinay (248-842-6964): Dr. K. R. Venkatramaiah (Canada) (416-925-8167). Nemana Satya (732-762-7104), Sekhar Reddy (954-895-1947), Tulasichand Tummala (408-786-8357), Raju Polavaram (919-959-6141); Pavan Neti (630-338-9364); Srinivas Murthy (212-538-8716)
Foreign writer opens our eyes: Loot of Hindu Temples by Secular Governments
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951 allows State Governments and politicians to take over thousands of Hindu Temples and maintain complete control over them and their properties. It is claimed that they can sell the temple assets and properties and use the money in any way they choose A charge has been made not by any Temple authority, but by a foreign writer, Stephen Knapp in a book (Crimes Against India and the Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition) published in the United States that makes shocking reading.
Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built inIndia by devout rulers and the donations given to them by devotees have been used for the benefit of the (other) people. If, presently, money collected has ever been misused (and that word needs to be defined), it is for the devotees to protest and not for any government to interfere. This latter is what has been happening currently under an intrusive law.
It would seem, for instance, that under a Temple Empowerment Act, about 43,000 temples in Andhra Pradesh have come under government control and only 18 per cent of the revenue of these temples have been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 per cent being used for purposes unstated.
Apparently even the world famous TirumalaTirupati Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs 3,100 crores every year and the State Government has not denied the charge that as much as 85 per cent of this is transferred to the State Exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community. Is it for this that devotees make their offering to the temples? Another charge that has been made is that the Andhra Government has also allowed the demolition of at least ten temples for the construction of a golf course. Imagine the outcry writes Knapp, if ten mosques had been demolished.
It would seem that in Karanataka, Rs. 79 crores were collected from about two lakh temples and from that, temples received Rs seven crores for their maintenance, Muslim madresas and Haj subsidy were given Rs 59 crores and churches about Rs 13 crores. Very generous of the government.
Because of this, Knapp writes, 25 per cent of the two lakh temples or about 50,000 temples in Karnataka will be closed down for lack of resources, and he adds: The only way the government can continue to do this is because people have not stood up enough to stop it.
Knapp then refers to Kerala where, he says, funds from the Guruvayur Temple are diverted to other government projects denying improvement to 45 Hindu temples. Land belonging to the Ayyappa Temple, apparently has been grabbed and Church encroaches are occupying huge areas of forest land, running into thousands of acres, near Sabarimala.
A charge is made that the Communist state government of Kerala. wants to pass an Ordinance to disband the Travancore & Cochin Autonomous Devaswom Boards (TCDBs) and take over their limited independent authority of 1,800 Hindu temples. If what the author says is true, even the Maharashtra Government wants to take over some 450,000 temples in the state which would supply a huge amount of revenue to correct the states bankrupt conditions.
And to top it all, Knapp says that in Orissa, the state government intends to sell over 70,000 acres of endowment lands from the Jagannath Temple, the proceeds of which would solve a huge financial crunch brought about by its own mismanagement of temple assets.
Says Knapp: Why such occurrences are so often not known is that the Indian media, especially the English television and press, are often anti-Hindu in their approach, and thus not inclined to give much coverage, and certainly no sympathy, for anything that may affect the Hindu community. Therefore, such government actions that play against the Hindu community go on without much or any attention attracted to them.
Knapp obviously is on record. If the facts produced by him are incorrect, it is up to the government to say so. It is quite possible that some individuals might have set up temples to deal with lucrative earnings. But that, surely, is none of the governments business? Instead of taking over all earnings, the government surely can appoint local committees to look into temple affairs so that the amount discovered is fairly used for the public good?
Says Knapp: Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions managed, maligned and controlled by the government, thus denying the religious freedom of the people of the country. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they smell money in them, they recognize the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus, they also know that it is not in the blood of Hindus to go to the streets to demonstrate, destroy property, threaten, loot, harm and kill Many Hindus are sitting and watching the demise of their culture. They need to express their views loud and clear Knapp obviously does not know that should they do so, they would be damned as communalists. But it is time some one asked the Government to lay down all the facts on the table so that the public would know what is happening behind its back. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name. One thought that Mohammad of Ghazni has long been dead.