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!