The Centre on Tuesday reduced the airfare for people travelling for the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, PTI reported. The move comes a month after the government withdrew the subsidy for the pilgrimage, saying that the funds would instead be diverted to provide education to Muslim girls.

The reduced airfares will be applicable to passengers on Air India, Saudi Airlines and Saudi Arabia-based air carrier Flynas. The flights will be available from 21 airports in India to Jeddah and Medina.

“The Prime Minister’s Office took a keen interest in this,” PTI quoted Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as saying. “The decision is in line with our empowerment without appeasement policy.”

Describing the move as a “major step”, Naqvi said the reduced airfares will end the “political and economic exploitation” of people travelling for the Haj. He also compared the new airfares to those fixed by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

The round fare from Mumbai in 2018 will be Rs 57,857 while the fare from Ahmedabad will be Rs 65,015, PTI reported. The round fare in 2013-’14 was Rs 98,750. Around 1.75 lakh pilgrims will undertake the pilgrimage this year from India, The Indian Express reported.

The Supreme Court had asked the Centre in 2012 to gradually phase out the Haj subsidy and abolish it by 2022.