The Tamil Nadu government announced an annual subsidy of Rs 6 crore for Haj pilgrimage from this year, months after it had opposed the Centre’s decision to do away with the monetary aid to the pilgrims.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami made the announcement in the state assembly.
Noting that the Central government had scrapped the Haj subsidy, he said the state government has been extending grant for the Hindus and the Christians for their overseas pilgrimage. Now Muslims too would be given a similar support, he added.
“Amma’s (late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s) government which follows her footsteps will from this year provide Rs 6 crore subsidy every year for followers of Islam to undertake the sacred Haj yatra,” he said.
The Chief Minister said this year a total of 3,728 people would undertake Haj pilgrimage under the new subsidy scheme, modalities of which are yet to be announced.
Fulfilling her 2011 assembly poll promise, Jayalalithaa had in 2012 announced subsidy to the Hindus undertaking pilgrimage to Mansarovar in China and Muktinath in Nepal from Tamil Nadu.
In 2011, ahead of Christmas, she had announced state subsidy for the Christians visiting Jerusalem for pilgrimage.
Reacting to the BJP-led NDA government’s decision in January this year to stop Haj subsidy, Palaniswami had then said the state government would request the Centre to reconsider the move.
The Centre had said the funds saved will be used for providing education to minorities.
The move was an effort by the government to “empower minorities” without appeasement, it had said.
The decision was in line with a 2012 Supreme Court order, asking the government to do away with the subsidy, a long standing demand of the BJP.
Various Muslim organisations had said the move will have little effect on the pilgrimage as it was the airlines that were benefiting from the subsidy.