Haj subsidy only once in a lifetime: Govt

NEW DELHI: The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to restrict Haj pilgrimage at government subsidy to Muslims only as a "once in a lifetime" affair as against the existing policy of "once in five years".

In an affidavit filed before the SC, the government said the new guidelines have been framed to ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Haj.

"This is a major change introduced for the first time. Restrict the number of pilgrimages to a Haj applicant through HCOI (Haj Committee of India) to 'once in a lifetime' as against the existing 'once in five years'. This will ensure that the Haji will benefit from government subsidy only once in his/her lifetime. It will also ensure that priority is given to those applicants who have never performed Haj," the Centre said.

The government, however, refrained from disclosing the amount of subsidy being incurred by it for 2012 saying, "The exact figure in respect of the travel subsidy to the pilgrims going through HCOI for 2012 will be known after the Hajis completed their Haj journey and return to India."

According to the government, priority will be given to those who are in the 70-plus category and those who had unsuccessfully applied thrice earlier for the subsidy.

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