The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Removing Haj subsidy is welcome. But secular principle must apply to all pilgrimages

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Pilgrim’s progress

The Centre has withdrawn the Haj subsidy for Muslim pilgrims, adding that the funds will be used for the education of women from the minority community. Such a move, said Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, was in line with the government’s aim to empower minorities “with dignity and without appeasement”. It is also in line with the Supreme Court order of 2012, which said the subsidy should be phased out in 10 years, with the money used for the “uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development”.

On the whole, it is a sensible move, which seems to aim at replacing tokenism with more meaningful investment in the welfare of minorities and at putting the distance required between a secular government and religious practices. But it is open to question whether Bharatiya Janata Party-led governments apply the second principle with sufficient rigour.

The subsidy, which mainly entailed lower fares for Air India flights, had long been criticised for being badly thought-out. It was claimed that funds routed through the Haj Committee were distributed as political largesse to community leaders, that the inflated airfares meant the money was actually a subsidy for the failing national carrier rather than Muslim pilgrims. For these reasons and more, the subsidy became a symbol of the Congress’s “minority appeasement”. It became ammunition for the BJP’s attack on “pseudo-secularism” and gave hardline Hindutva organisations an opportunity to vilify Muslims.

In the past, members of the community had called it an “albatross around our neck”. Few Muslim leaders now contest the removal of the subsidy, though some have expressed unhappiness that it should be so “sudden” and “targeted” at one community. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who had earlier urged that the money be spent on educating Muslim girls, has challenged the Narendra Modi-led government to stop “Hindu appeasement” too.

This is a charge that the BJP must take seriously. The Centre might justify expenditure on massive religious events like the Kumbh Mela on the grounds that it is the government’s duty to ensure the necessary facilities as well as law and order for large gatherings in any part of the country. It is less apparent why the Centre should set aside funds for the boarding and accommodation of pilgrims going to Tibet on the Kailash Manasarovar yatra. Besides, several state governments provide money for residents making the pilgrimage.

While states like Karnataka and Delhi, currently ruled by other parties, also provide such grants, the expenditure is most conspicuous and rising with BJP-led governments. Madhya Pradesh subsidises a range of pilgrimages for senior citizens and their attendants, including visits to Ayodhya, Mathura, the birthplace of Sant Kabir, St Thomas’s Church in Kerala as well as Hindu religious destinations in Pakistan, China, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh not only doubled the grant for the Manasarovar Yatra, but it also proposed to build a Manasarovar Bhavan. Recently, it also faced charges of diverting government funds to the “Gorakhpur Mahotsav”, a star-studded extravaganza in the chief minister’s former Lok Sabha constituency.

The BJP seems quite willing to be seen spending on Hindu pilgrimages and religious practices, and not just on the security arrangements. It is curiously at odds with the secular standards the party sets for itself when it comes to the Haj. To repeat a truism in secular politics, if the state is to retreat from religion, it must retreat from all religions equally.

The Big Scroll

Shoaib Daniyal argues that the Congress’s Muslim tokenism has hurt both the party and the community.

Here is an explainer on why the Haj subsidy so controversial.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Haris Wankhede on how the Bhima-Koregaon protests suggest a return to a radical past for Dalit consciousness.
  2. In the Hindu, Jean Dreze finds that many states have instituted so-called reforms in the public distribution system that are hurting millions of people.
  3. In Mint, Shekhar Chandra asks a grim question: can we still avoid the climate tipping point?

Giggles

Don’t miss...

Joydeep Gupta on how rising sea levels threaten to displace millions in the Sunderbans:

 “I had first visited Baliara in 2009, two months before the cyclone hit. Badruddin Sarkar, retired headmaster of the village school, had then stood on top of the 18-foot embankment and pointed out the homes he used to have – the first was overtaken by a rising sea in 1991 and the second in 2004. All that could be seen of the second was the trunk of a coconut palm – it used to be part of the foundation. Two months after I met him, a storm surge from Cyclone Aila topped the embankment, ruined Sarkar’s paddy fields and freshwater fish farms with salt water, killed his livestock, and forced him to migrate to Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, over 100 kilometres away.”  

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The qualities of a high-performance luxury sedan

A lesson in harnessing tremendous power to deliver high performance.

Gone are the days when the rich and successful would network during a round of golf, at least in the Silicon Valley. As reported by New York Times, ‘auto-racing has become a favourite hobby for the tech elites’. However, getting together on a race track would require a machine that provides control while testing extreme limits. Enter the Mercedes-AMG range of cars.

Mercedes-AMG’s rise from a racing outfit to a manufacturer of peak performance cars is dotted with innovations that have pushed the boundaries of engineering. While the AMG series promises a smooth driving experience, its core is made up of a passion for motorsports and a spirit that can be summarized in two words – power and performance. These integral traits draw like-minded people who share and express Mercedes-AMG’s style of performance.

The cars we drive say a lot about us, it’s been said. There are several qualities of an AMG performance luxury sedan that overlap with the qualities of its distinguished owner. For instance, creating an impression comes naturally to both, so does the ambition to always deliver an exceptional performance. However, the strongest feature is that both the owner and the AMG marque continually challenge themselves in pursuit of new goals, stretching the limits of performance.

This winning quality comes alive, especially, in the latest Mercedes-AMG marque – the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+. With the most powerful engine to have ever been installed in an E-class, this undisputed performance sedan promises immense power at the driver’s command. With 612 HP under its hood, the car achieves 0-100 km/h in just a few seconds - 3.4 to be precise. Moreover, the car comes with the latest driver-assistance technology that promises intelligent control and provides an agile and responsive ride.

But, the new AMG is not just about work (or traction in car lingo). One of its core features is to provide its owners a challenge on the race track. Its drift mode, which converts the vehicle into a pure rear-wheel drive, offers pure exhilaration and adds a work-play dynamic to the car. In that sense, the new AMG is a collaborator of sorts - one that partners with its owner to create an impression through performance. And on the weekends, the car pushes him/her to express absolute power using its race mode with a thunderous roar of the engine - the pure sound of adrenalin. This balance between work and play has been achieved using cutting-edge features in the car that together create an almost intuitive driver-machine relationship.

If you’re looking for a car that shares your enthusiasm for driving, you’ll find a partner in the new AMG. However, buying an AMG is not just about owning a powerhouse on wheels, it’s also about adopting a driving philosophy in which power is just the starting point - the main skill lies in how you manoeuvre that power on the road. A performance sedan in its sportiest form, Mercedes-AMG’s latest model takes vehicle performance to an unmatched level. A decade ago, this amount of speed and power in a luxury 4-door model would be un-thinkable.

Play

The new Mercedes-AMG comes with a host of individualisation options through designo, the artistic side of Mercedes’s innovation, so the car becomes an extension of the owner’s distinctive personality. An expressive design with a new radiator grille and a muscular front apron showcase its athleticism. A new-age driver environment, widescreen cockpit, the AMG performance steering wheel and sports seat delivers an intensive driving experience. With the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, AMG has created an undisputed performance sedan that can rip the race track as well as provide reliable luxury sedan-duty. To know more about the most powerful E-class of all time, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mercedes-Benz and not by the Scroll editorial team.