A month after it scrapped subsidies for Haj pilgrims, the government today announced a significant reduction in airfares for devotees travelling to Saudi Arabia, with the prices of round tickets being slashed by Rs 20,000 to Rs 97,000.
Union Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi described the move as a “major step” that would end the “political and economic exploitation of Haj performers as was being done during the Congress-led UPA regime”, allegedly in the name of offering subsidies.
The minister said the move sought to address concerns about airfares going up after the Haj subsidy was abolished last month.
“The PMO took keen interest in this (bringing down the rates). The decision is in line with our empowerment without appeasement policy,” Naqvi told reporters here.
The government made available details of the 2014 airfares to highlight the price difference. The 18-49 per cent reduction in rates will be available on tickets for Jeddah and Medina on national carrier Air India, Saudia and Flynas, an air carrier based in Saudi Arabia.
The maximum difference of about Rs 97,000 is on the Srinagar fare, which has almost been halved. A round ticket from the Kashmir city cost Rs 1,98,350 in 2014 and will now come for Rs 1,01,400. The minimum cut — of around Rs 20,000 — will be on a ticket from Varanasi, which is down from Rs 1,12,300 to Rs 92,004.
Haj pilgrims can leave from 20 embarkation points (EPs). Indore is another EP but there are no devotees flying out from the Madhya Pradesh city this year.
Air India will serve pilgrims from seven EPs — Chennai, Goa, Mumbai, Nagpur, Varanasi, Kolkata and Srinagar.
Rs 97,000 relief
The maximum difference of about Rs 97,000 is on the Srinagar fare, which has almost been halved. A round ticket from the Kashmir city cost Rs 1,98,350 in 2014 and will now come for Rs 1,01,400.