Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UPA government defends Haj subsidy, claims Hindus are being pampered

If you did not know, about Rs. 280 crores of the taxpayer money is going towards the Haj Subsidy and your friendly UPA government thinks it does not violate secularism(read support for any community other than Hinduism). The representatives said,
“The basic feature of secularism is in no way marred by the decision. The government is not averse to the idea of granting support to the pilgrimage conducted by any community,”

The UPA govt. also pointed out that they were magnanimously sponsoring some facilities for the Hindus like,
Rs. 3,250-subsidy per head was being provided for the Kailash Manasarovar pilgrimage. Facilities were being provided to Hindu and Sikh pilgrims for visits to temples and gurdwaras in Pakistan. For the Kumbh Mela, the State government incurred expenditure.

I checked out how many millions of Hindus visited the Manasarovar lake, based on my research as quoted by the UPA Government about 1000 people visit every year. This when multiplied by the subsidy costs the Government Rs.31 lakhs. The problem with the analysis provided by the Government is that the majority of expenses made are returned back to the Indian economy as opposed to the Haj subsidy which goes into the Saudi economy (who of course funnel it back into India by sponsoring SIMI and other groups). The petitioner's key point sums up the argument,
In a secular country, the government could not promote a particular religion at the cost of others and spend the amount collected by way of taxes for one religious community

11 comments:

Pilid said...

A case challenging the Haj subsidy is still pending in the Supreme Court. The BJP which makes so much fuss about the pseudosecular tendencies of other parties actually increased the Haj subsidy when it was in power.

Anonymous said...

MrPilid,BJP was not in power.It was only NDA lead by BJP. Because of the National Democratic Alliance BJP had to suspend their own policies

Pilid said...

Anon,
The BJP was the 800 lb. gorilla in the NDA coalition. If it was actually opposed to the idea, it could have at least put its foot down on the idea of increasing the subsidy. But no, the news link I provided shows Shahnawaz Hussein proclaiming it and he was from the BJP.

Dirt Digger said...

Pilid,
Thats an interesting revelation. BJP in a vague effort to prove its holier(secular) than thou decides to increase the subsidy. Its interesting to see how each group abuses its minority statuses to curry favor and benefits from the government.

Anirud said...

Pilid
Some of the commentators are correct. The BJP just talks but when it comes to doing, it is cowardly. These kind of things could have been easily done if it wanted to. In any event, it does not get the muslim of the stratum which avails of these subsidies.

That said, you raised some important points. Allow me to add.

It would be good if you or someone else can investigate and publish the kind of subsidies being given. For example the Rs. 3250 subsidy given to Hindus visiting Manas Sarovar,is this a cash handout or similar rebate where the ticket expenses are borne by the government? Or is it a subsidy in the form of "reduced rates"? The difference is important. If it is one of those "reduced rates", then we know that it is really not a subsidy because the profit margins are being reduced, that is all.
Besides, where is Rs. 3250 and where is the full fare to Mecca? Ridiculous.

A related point has to do with Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela is a huge public gathering and a legal one. Whether it is a Muslim or Hindu one, the state govts. are obliged to keep peace, law and order during such voluntary gatherings, and that is why we pay taxes. Besides, as you said, the state's economy benfits a lot during these pushkaras.

If indeed there need not be any security arrangements or sanitation arrangements from a secular state for such gatherings, so be it. Then, let us also not recognize the Vatican, and not give any protection to the chief purveyor of underaged sex. Let him come in as a private citizen. Let there not be any reservations for Muslims. Abolish the endowments ministry and let Hindu temples operate on their own/ Alternatively, let the government audit and closely scrutinize the books and activities of every masjid, madrassa and whatever else including churches (the wakf board is there but it is an independent beast which cares a whit for the government).

Hajj subsidy seems to be for financing an already rich country (as you correctly said), and for these guys to go get stoned or trampled to death. There is no comparison.

We all know this to be commonsense. But we are not doing enough to let these idiots get the message and do something about it. I am deeply disappointed by recent BJP behavior and the seeming desperation of Advani who seems to have completely lost perspective. At this rate, what is the use of voting for them when they harp on the wrong issues and do not show the balls to take up the real issues?

Sorry about the long message but if you think I added something even a little worthwhile, please share it with others. The more people like us keep hacking away at it, the more they will listen- sometime, sooner I hope than later.

Pilid said...

Anirud,
You raise several issues. Firstly, does it make a difference whether it is a discounted fare being offered or a handout? Probably not under the terms here. If a discount is being offered owing to the fact that a large number of people from India are traveling to the same place in Saudi Arabia, that may have been permissible under the equality provision of the constitution if justified as a purely business decision whose rationale applied equally to other religious and secular purposes as for example, if Air India provided the discounted fare depending on the estimated passenger volume and similarly large passenger volumes to other parts of the world traveling for whatever other reasons were also entitled to a similar benefit. Reality is that it is neither – for one thing, the amount of subsidy is a policy decision of the government, not a management decision of Air India and hence, not a business decision; secondly, the amount is granted solely for the purpose of a Haj visit, not for any other purpose or any other destination. Given these two facts, the modalities of the subsidy are not all that important from a legal standpoint because it is unconstitutional ab initio - the government’s stand that it grants benefits to all religions does not hold water for two reasons: one, as DD pointed out in the post because the distribution of benefits is unequal and two, even if it were equal, it would put atheists and agnostics at a disadvantage which a secular state is not allowed to do.
You raise the point of the Kumbh mela which is an interesting question. Under Art. 25(1), public order and health are listed as exceptions to the right to religion, i.e., the state has the power to regulate the event and also sanitary conditions by requiring the organizers to meet particular criteria. But should the state pay for the arrangements? I think the answer will depend on whether the state also pays for other gatherings of a comparable size for other purposes. The state would have to either pay for all such events or none at all.
I do not know what you mean by ‘not recognize the Vatican’. The Vatican does have official standing in every country across the world which is why the Pope is accorded diplomatic courtesies whenever he visits.
Reservation for Muslims is a question by itself and cannot be associated with the question of secularism. From a legal and moral perspective, so long as criteria for quotas are similar to those applied for backward caste Hindus, reservation may be permissible for that community as well – there is some controversy over that following the AP High Court judgments which I am not well-versed with.
Under our existing system, the secular activities of religious bodies can be managed by the government (Art. 25(2)(a)). That includes temples, etc. which come under the Hindu Endowments Act as well as masjids, dargahs, etc. which come under the authority of the Wakf Boards constituted by the State under the Wakf Act, 1954.

Anonymous said...

There is no backward "caste" in Islam and Christainity, and all folks are equal. At least, that is what these religions claim and in fact touted as the principal reason for conversions. If the practise of discrimination, segregation and subjugation in these two religions is due to the social milieu and age old customs, then "backwardness" is a socio-economic issue and nothing to do with Hinduism as such. So, the main and perhpas only reason for prosyletisation is bust. These religions can not criticse Hinduism by assuming a holier than thou position and at the same time claim backward class status for their followers.

Anonymous said...

Vatican having "official standing" is an anachronism and historical aberration. There were times when the Popes played politics in Europe and finally the Pope was shown his place by the French king. At least as far as India is concerned there is no need to recognise Vatian as a soverign state.

Dalai Lama is considered to be feudal (by Chindu and China) and there is no reason why the Pope can not be considered so.

Pilid said...

>>These religions can not criticse Hinduism by assuming a holier than thou position and at the same time claim backward class status for their followers.>>
Agreed.

>>Dalai Lama is considered to be feudal (by Chindu and China) and there is no reason why the Pope can not be considered so.>>
The equivalence of the two holds true only if you believe that the Dalai Lama is also the political head of the state of Tibet. No country in the world recognizes that, so the Dalai Lama is only accorded the official respect and courtesy as a religious head.

No one however disputes the political authority of the Pope as head of the Vatican. In actual terms, there is not a whole lot of difference except for the fact that usually a government official receives the Pope when he lands in a foreign country whereas that is not so for the Dalai Lama. Both have access to the highest levels of government in most countries.

Anonymous said...

The Pope may be recognised as the head of the catholic church. However, there is absolutely no need to recognise him as head of state. This is simply out of tune with times, even if ceremonial. India should withdraw its diplomatic representation at Vatican.

Anonymous said...

Added to the Haj subsidy (discounted airfare) are the following over heads which state and central govt. bears.

-Permanant facilities Haj houses with superior facilities (centralised AC, dormitories, high profile bathrooms and rest areas).eg. one of the Haj house in Calicut/Malapuram area in Kerala is worth 5 crores.

-Medical facilities (prior medical camps including all modern medical tests for all Haj pilgrims to ensure they are medically fit to travel)

-When airlines are charging $$$ for even an extra KG of weight put in your suitecase,Hajis after their return from Haj can bring about 10KG of extra luggage which is samsam water, a divine liquid from the Haj pilgrimage.. A lot of keralites use Haj subsidy to promote their shopping interests and this time airlines became critical in checking the luggages due to the highcosts rise (due to oil price hike)..A lot of Haji's were not allowed to carry samsam water as their luggage itself has crossed the allowed limit + weight allowed for samsam (this is happening year after year but AIRINDIA became strict this time due to oil price hike)
..The kerala government ruled by CPM which claims to be secular made this a big issues in muslim pockets and ensured that using their state machinery (again money paid by tax by all citizens) they distributed samsam water to all pilgrims at their doorsteps after bringing it in bulk from Saudi..Just to highlight the contradiction here, Sabarimala which is one of the top pilgrim spot of Hindus is visited by crorers of people every year..Last year the same Kerala goverment became so lethargic in making arrangements to distribute aravana ( a prasadam or devotional offering ) and result no body got aravana in last pilgrim season...All the money from selling Aravana (about Rs 50- Rs 150 for various packets based on weight) go to Devaswaom board which in turn is controlled by Government..

Secularism is at its beak in India