Airfare for Haj gets cheaper

The increase in India's quota will be effective from the Haj later this year. Saudi Arabia last year raised India's quota by 35,000.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday announced a significant cut in the airfare for those going on Haj, a month after it scrapped subsidies for the pilgrimage.

Describing the move as a “major step”, Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The PMO took a keen interest in this. The decision is in line with our empowerment without appeasement policy”.

The reduction will be applicable to travel on Air India, Saudi Airlines and Flynas, an air carrier based in Saudi Arabia, to Jeddah and Medina from 21 airports in India. The move to cut airfares will end the “political and economic exploitation” of Hajis “as was done during the Congress-led UPA regime”, Mr Naqvi said.

The minister also compared Haj airfares fixed during the former UPA government and the ones for 2018. From Ahmedabad, the roundtrip fare this year will be around Rs 65,015, against Rs 98,750 in 2013-2014. The fare from Mumbai has been brought down to around Rs 57,857 from Rs 98,750 in 2013-14. The government had in January abolished subsidies given to those on the pilgrimage in view of a 2012 Supreme Court order.The government had last month announced that Saudi Arabia had increased India’s Haj quota by 5,000, the second hike in two years, taking the number of pilgrims who can perform Haj from this country to 1,75,025. Mr Naqvi said the increase in the past two years — of nearly 40,000 — is a “record expansion” since Independence.

The increase in India’s quota will be effective from the Haj later this year. Saudi Arabia last year raised India’s quota by 35,000. The Saudis raised the quota after Mr Naqvi signed a bilateral annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia with the Haj and Umrah minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Mecca.

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