The fair of Haj pilgrims flying from the central government's Haj Committee is increasing every year. In one way, the government's Haj fair is almost coming equivalent to the price of private Haj. The private agencies take on the tour with full facilities; such as food, lodging, etc. However, Haj rates of the government are silently getting dearer.

The fair of the Haj pilgrims flying from Mangaluru Airport in 2018' government quota has increased to Rs 2,63,450 and Rs. 2,29,250 for Green and Azeeziya categories respectively. An increase of about 80 to 90 thousand compared to last five years. The government is charging extra money from every pilgrim.

Let's look at the past three years' fairs. In 2016, the central government charged Rs 2,19,450 and Rs 1,85,550 for Green and Azeeziya categories respectively for the Haj pilgrims flying from Mangaluru. In 2017, it was 2,39,150 and 2,05,750. That means, an increase of Rs. 20,000 in merely a year. Again from 2017 to 2018 there is an increase of Rs. 25,000. In all, the central government is systematically looting the Haj pilgrims with a steep increase of Rs. 45,000 from 2016 to 2018. 

Let us now know the exact cost of the Haj pilgrimage. The government arranges a staying of 40 days at Mecca and Medina for pilgrims. The government does nothing more than Haj visa, flight tickets, accommodation, vaccinations, and treatment related to primary health problems. The maximum expense for this service comes to Rs.1,20,000 and Rs 95,000 for both the categories respectively if compared to the market price in 2018.

The cost of food and visiting the surrounding areas has to be looked over by the pilgrim itself. Separate charges must be paid to Haj Committee if the pilgrim wants Qurbani arrangement. Rs 25,000 for flight tickets, Mecca hotel room 50,000 (25 days), Madina hotel room 20,000 (15 days) is being charged apart from Rs. 25,000 for other expenses (visa, medical, postage, camp, staff, etc.). In all, it comes to Rs. 1,20,000. This is for the Green category.

Whereas for the Azeezia category, the total cost may come up to Rs. 95,000 as hotel rooms in this category will be given little far in Mecca. This calculation is as per today's market. So how and where the government fair is getting doubled? Who is taking benefit out of this? These are some of the many unanswered questions as of now. The government must stop giving false reasons of Saudi Riyal getting stronger than Indian Rupee every year.

The Haj pilgrims use to get 2,100 Saudi Riyals at the airport until the last year. Haj aspirants of this year may also have the hope to get the same amount of Riyals this year too. But, it has already been announced that there is no government subsidy this year. Central government must let the public know what it is doing with the one lakh extra money it is getting from every Haj pilgrim. As the central government is charging one lakh extra from around 1,25,000 pilgrims, it is even difficult for a calculator to calculate how much amount the central government is looting from Haj pilgrims every year.

Haj is one of the five pillars of the Islam. According to Islam, a Haj pilgrimage must display the spirit of unity, brotherhood, and tolerance. Enimity must be thrown away. Haji must get clean from all impurities. Only the Hajj of a Muslim gets complete. It is maybe because of this a Haj pilgrim completes his Haj by tolerating all the chaos of the government and pays extra money which government wants to loot.

Like a newborn, a haji returns with a pure mind. The government should understand this. As the amendments to the Haj subsidy and other Haj Acts done; in the same way, the central government must stop looting the extra money from Haj pilgrims and must take the responsibility of providing quality service to the extent of the excess amount they are charging. If not, then there will be a curse of exploiting a community.

Rasheed Vittla is a member of D.K district wakf.

 

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Hong Kong, Oct 25: Amnesty International said Monday it would close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease its operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city.

The human rights group said its local office in Hong Kong would close this month while its regional office will close by the end of the year, with regional operations moved to other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong's national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government, Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty's board, said in a statement.

Hong Kong implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 following months of massive anti-government protests. The law outlaws secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs. More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city's democracy movement, have been arrested under the law.

The majority of the city's prominent pro-democracy activists are behind bars for taking part in unauthorized assemblies, and dozens of political organizations and trade unions have ceased operations out of concern for their members' personal safety under the security law.

Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signaled authorities were intensifying their campaign to rid the city of dissenting voices. It is increasingly difficult for us to keep operating in such an unstable environment, she said.

Critics in Hong Kong say the national security law is an erosion of freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, that were promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.