Haj Subsidy: Is there a hidden scam?
In a reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Ministry of External Affairs has informed that the in the year 2011, the quantum of funds spent on Haj subsidy was Rs. 605 crores. The Airfare on Haj is subsidized by the government. Critics have pointed out that the Government has paid a subsidy of 38,800 per Haji on the airfare. If the same is multiplied by the number of Hajis which was 124921, the total Haj subsidy on airfare should be nearly Rs. 485 crores.
However the figures differ from those filed in an affidavit by the Under Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Vivek Jeph, in the Supreme Court on behalf of Union of India. As per the details about Haj subsidy and other Haj related functions, it has been claimed in the affidavit that the Haj Subsidy given by Government of India in Year 2011 was 685 crore. The unexplained difference of Rs. 80 Crore in the affidavit and the RTI has made activists looking for reasons.
The Government of India has filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court challenging the verdict of Mumbai High Court in a case regarding Haj Subsidy and Haj quota to private tour operators. As per the affidavit, an amount of Rs. 3347 Crores has been spent on Haj subsidy in the last five years.
The fluctuation in the quantum of subsidy paid per passenger during the last five years has raised eyebrows. During the last five years, the airfare paid per passenger after the competitive bidding has been Rs. 47182, Rs. 72640, Rs. 55200, Rs. 47675 and 54800 respectively. The reason for the high airfare in 2008 and the subsidy of Rs. 60640 paid per passenger has invited media scrutiny.