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LS walkout over subsidy for Haj

LS walkout over subsidy for Haj

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 23, 2003

The opposition on Monday walked out of the Lok Sabha accusing the government of adopting a discriminatory approach on the issue of subsidy for Haj pilgrims.

The protest was sparked by minister for civil aviation Rajiv Pratap Rudi's statement that the Union cabinet had reiterated its decision to give the subsidy to the pilgrims provided they fulfilled three conditions.

The conditions are: they have to avail the accommodation arranged by the Haj committee, the subsidy is to be on the once-in-a-lifetime basis and be available only to those who are not income-tax payees.

The minister responded when Speaker Manohar Joshi reminded him that the opposition had raised the issue earlier also. Mr Rudi said that at its meeting last week, the cabinet considered the matter and decided that the conditions would stay.

He said that every pilgrim would have to submit an affidavit fulfilling the three conditions. Of the 72,000 pilgrims, 55,000 have already produced the affidavits. "To dispense with this practice now would be discriminatory to the 55,000 people who have already done that," he said.

He said that to help those who could not complete the formality, notaries would be present at airports.

The opposition members strongly protested against the "rigid" government attitude and demanded that the practice be dropped. "You cannot question the bona fide of a pilgrim," Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said, terming it as discriminatory.

Ramjilal Suman (Samjawadi Party) charged the government with denying the pilgrims an opportunity to perform Haj. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) and Rashid AM (BSP) said the new measure amounted to harassment.

From the treasury benches, the BJP and Samata members countered the opposition charges. "Why not subsidy for pilgrims to Kailash-Mansarovar?" shouted Raghunath Jha (Samata).

Amidst the rising noise, the opposition members walked out.

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