The myth of India’s Hajj subsidy: Muhammad Farooq


Recently the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of extending subsidy on air fare to the Hajj Pilgrims. This year Rs.280 Crores were reportedly spent by the Government of India to subsidise the air fare of one lakh pilgrims. This amounts to a subsidy of Rs.28000/- per pilgrim. The subsidy provided to the pilgrims has understandably generated a lot of debate within political and social circles in India. While the right wing political parties, when not in power, consider it as an unnecessary appeasement of Indian Muslims, the governments formed by any party have always seen it as a necessary expenditure to help Muslims perform their religious obligation of Hajj.

Since I have also performed my Hajj this year, I decided to do some quick calculations to check the veracity of the tall claims made by the GoI and the Hajj Committee regarding the subsidy amount (see box). The results were quite shocking. I checked with one of the service providers —‘’— and it showed up the Saudi Airline’s fare of a little over Rs.26000/- for a return Delhi-Jeddah ticket with a gap of around forty days. It was amazing to find that the total airfare of Rs.26,000 for a hajj pilgrimage is even lower than the subsidy amount  of Rs.28,000 thousand which is allegedly paid by GoI to airlines to subsidise the “high cost” of the air tickets.

While applying for the Hajj visit, I had opted for the first class (Green) accommodation and paid Rs 1.25 Lakhs to the government for the same. If the Government of India has paid Rs.28000/- for my airfare, then what did I pay the huge amount of Rs.1,25,000/- for?

Out of the said Rs.1,25,000/- I received a foreign exchange of SR 2100/- roughly equivalent to INR 25000/-. Out of the balance INR 1,00,000 or SR 8500, Rs 43750 /person (SR 3500) were charged for a month long stay in Makkah. I was staying there in Building No.557 (at Ajiad Road) which housed a total of 119 pilgrims. Notably this amount is payable to the Muallim (local guide) who obviously pays only a part of it to the owner of the building.

In Madina I was lodged in a three/four star hotel in which a triple occupancy room was occupied by six of us. The normal rent for the room is SR 300/- per night. In principle, the rent chargeable to us should have been less than that, since six people were lodged in a room meant for only three. Also, as the entire tourism of the holy cities of Makkah and Madina is religious – there is almost no scope for any extra charges on add-ons like entertainment etc. Even then, if we consider being charged SR 100/person a day for the stay, the amount totals to SR 1000 or INR 12500 for a ten days stay. It is important to mention here that the food during their stay in the holy cities is managed by the pilgrims themselves.

Add the cost of the ticket of Rs.26,000/- or SR 2200/-, to it, and the unaccounted for balance of the amount deposited by me with the government comes Rs.16,000 or SR 1280. Where was this money spent by the government? Not the least on the very little transport and tent facility for those few days of Hajj. As presumably, the same were included in the charges of the Muallim mentioned earlier. It goes without saying that the transport cost is very low in Saudi Arabia, the Visa is free, and the sacrificial animal is purchased by the pilgrims on their own.

Add to this the “subsidy amount” of Rs.28000, and one is kept wondering shockingly where do the Rs.440 Crores (Rs.44,000 per pilgrim) go every year.

Amount Paid by the pilgrim SR 10,000 Rs 1,25,000
Amount refunded via forex SR 2100 Rs 25,000
Rent Charges at Makkah SR 3500 Rs 43,750
Rent charges at madina SR 1000 Rs 12,500
Cost of to & fro Ticket SR 2080 Rs 26,000
Total expenses+ refund SR 8680 Rs 1,08,500
Money Unaccounted for SR 3520 A. Rs 16,000 (1.25-1.09 L) 

B. Rs28000 (SubsidyAmount)

Total: Rs 44,000

* Exchange rate applied: 1 SR=Rs 12.5

More importantly, the unabashed duplicity of the government and its arms is exposed every year by private operators who offer similar Hajj Tours at an economical cost of Rs.1.00 Lac which includes providing food to the pilgrims as well. The private operators will obviously still be making profits.

Against this background only one reason survives about the annual use – nay, misuse – of Rs.280 crores by the honourable Government of India and that is ‘Corruption’. One can only wish this amount is used to feed some, if not all, of the starving to whom the Prime Minister had recently said: “Sorry, I can’t help you!” As for the Muslims, Hajj is not to be performed by the one who does not have the wherewithal for it.

(Correction: This article earlier mentioned the total Hajj subsidy as being Rs. 28,000 crores rather than Rs. 280 crores. The error is regretted.)

34 thoughts on “The myth of India’s Hajj subsidy: Muhammad Farooq”

  1. There is something a little odd about the numbers mentioned in this post. The second line mentions a figure of “Rs 28000 crore” spent by GoI for “one Lakh pilgrims”, which “amounts to a subsidy of Rs.28000/- per pilgrim”.

    No it does not, it amounts to a subsidy of Rs 28 lakh per pilgrim. Therefore either the 28000 crore figure is wrong or the 28000 figure is wrong. I suspect the former.

    But then the post ends with a mention of “the whopping Rs.280 thousand Crores”. That’s ten times larger than the 28000 crore the post started with.

    There’s also a mention of “Rs.28,000 thousand” (second para).

    Can you please clarify these numbers?


  2. “This year Rs.28000 Crores were reportedly spent by the Government of India to subsidize the air fare of one Lakh pilgrims. This amounts to a subsidy of Rs.28000/- per pilgrim.”

    I stopped reading the rest of the article beyond this point.

    Where did the author get the absurd figure of Rs.28000 crore subsidy?

    Rs.28000 multiplied by 1,00,000 (1 lac) equals Rs.280 crores, not a whopping Rs. 28000 crores.


  3. Just curious – is it necessary to book the Hajj trip via the government? Can’t the travel + Visa arrangements be made normally, like other foreign travel?


    1. There are quotas for the number pilgrims divided among GoI and private tour operators (PTO). No one can individually go for Hajj, one has to either be with a private tour operator or GoI (Haj Committee). This is because Saudi Government rightly insists that each pilgrim should have proper reserved accommodation in Mecca/Madina before they enter Saudia Arabia. GoI and tour operators ensure this by signing “contracts” for such accommodation with the locals before hand. People prefer GoI as they are the lesser evil, compared to Private Tour Operators who are notorious for fleecing and torturing pilgrims. And also Visa applications for Hajj are processed strict through Haj Committee or PTOs and one cant apply at the Saudi Embassy directly. In short too much of red tape. Huge contracts. And huge ….. do I need to say what?


  4. the important question is, what is the government doing handing out any subsidy at all?

    that there is mismanagement of the present funds is not surprising at all, but your sample size is too small (1) to figure out if this happens to everyone or if this was an anomaly.

    in short this article proves nothing except that you were “cheated” of 16 grand by the governement, either by fluke or this is a regular thing.

    hope you can do some real digging and provide figures. and then explain how someone who had the money to shell out 1.25 lakh out of pocket needed a 25k discount from the secular government of india for a personal, religious reason.


    PS: Am a Christian, lest i be labeled a right wing loony


    1. @Anand Philip: You ‘rightly’ turn out to be one – a right wing loony and Islamophobic basher. Do some ‘real’ reading with an open heart and ask someone worthy to explain in what way does 28k subsidy apply to over a 100000 people – and not to just one person who writes about it.

      PS: Am NOT a Christian, lest i be labeled a left wing looney.


      1. Mr. Perez,

        Pray do tell me, what is islamophobic about pointing out that the sample size of one is inadequate to make a dramatic conclusion that haj subsidies do not reach the intended recipients? and that the subsidy is a myth?

        I am asking you this, and am willing to listen. The question was a scientific one. Journalism has a duty to be responsible, to take a single case and generalise it is not good reporting practise.

        Everyone who challenges an idea is not against the idea, or a fascist, but perhaps we are too forgone in our lust to label to remember that.

        I was wrong to have left the PS. it distracts from the question and perhaps colors it, and that is my fault.

        But Do you have an answer Mr. Perez?


        Anand Philip


  5. As correctly put by Mr Rajeev Sharma, it is Rs.28,000 (Twenty eight thousand Rupees) per pilgrim which works out to Rs.280 Crores for a Lakh of pilgrims.


  6. Why does the Indian government play a role in the Haj? It’s an older colonial legacy. As Radhika Singha ( has shown, the British colonial government was forced to get involved in the Hajj due to protests by the Ottoman’s in the late 19th century. The Ottoman government complained that many South Asian Muslims managed to save money to go for the Hajj but did not have the resources to return. British foreign policy and their strategic needs in West Asia led to state involvement in the Hajj


  7. SC has given a judgment that haj subsidy is not against the constitution.How about a subsidy to Hindus, Christians to travel to a sacred place of their choice.Why only for muslims.I understand that no islamic country gives this subsidy.if govt spends rs 280 crores for muslims let it spend at least 1000 crores to subsidise pilgrimage by Hindus. Why not subiside a trip to Pittsburgh Balaji temple or a temple in UK for Hindus and a trip to Vatican for christians.


    1. Dear Indian,

      The Government may not subsidise Pittsburg Balaji temple or temple in UK, But it does subsidise Amarnath Yatras and Kailas Mansarovar Yatras (I am a beneficiary of the latter). The salary for the defence personnel in Amarnath (who also volunteer to carry pilgrims) and ITBP in KM Yatra are paid for the Government. The salary of the Liason Officer (a senior Civil Service officer) for one month of KM Yatra is paid by the Government. The medical tests by ITBP is performed free of cost. Need I say more?


  8. First of all, you ignore overheads. If you involve the government in any program, then inevitably you create a bureaucracy to handle that program. The costs of bureaucracy can be substantial, even without the corruption that all of us know. If you go to the Haj Committee of India’s website, you will find:

    – a Ministry of External Affairs notice inviting applications from male Muslim government officers for temporary deputation to Saudi Arabia as Coordinator, Haj Officer and Haj Assistant.

    – another one inviting applications from Muslim government officers for deputation to Saudi Arabia as doctors and paramedics.

    I did not look further, but I think you get the point. You could, of course, legitimately ask whether the “overheads” can amount to Rs. 44000 per person. I simply don’t know. But I remember my father, an ex-bureaucrat himself, saying that if there’s anything our bureaucracy knows how to do well, it is creating unnecessary jobs. The bloatedness of our bureaucracy is no secret.

    A second point is that we don’t know what Air India charges for this trip. It is true that Air India is a government organization but it does have the right to set fares. What fares does it set for the Haj trip? I don’t know but I think it is safe to assume that it will be more than the Rs. 26000 that Saudia charged for the trip. Basically, the Haj pilgrims are a “captive” market for Air India and I think they will milk it for all they can get.

    Let me make two other points.

    1. I don’t what you mean by the “myth of India’s Haj subsidy.” That the subsidy is given is no myth. Whether it is used properly or simply wasted is a different issue altogether.

    2. Since you bring this issue up, may I say that, in my opinion, it is in the Muslim community’s best interest to get rid of this subsidy. Given your computations, Muslims can do the Haj at a cheaper price without availing themselves of the subsidy. But even if this were not the case, I don’t think this is something that the GoI should be involved in. For that matter, I don’t think the GoI should be involved in the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash either.


  9. Regardless of the veracity of the figures, GoI claims subsidizing a considerable amount for Hajj Pilgrims. The question is whether GoI does give subsidy to Hajj Pilgrims, if so how much and why? When we examine this claim, we get astonished seeing the hollowness and pointlessness. It is just a hoax , so deceptive and a ruse so vile, vicious and despicable. It is only a miniature instance of what GoI has been doing with the minority issues, especially that of Muslims. Resorting to pointless symbols carrying nothing in substance! First of all, a secular government needs not spend any amount in subsidy for performing any worship associated with any religion. It even needs not get involved at all. Secondly, no Haj pilgrim will require or request such a favor from GoI since Hajj is compulsory only on the believers who are capable financially. Thirdly, these kinds of ruses do not help to promote anything good in our country except to whip up the communal passion. Moreover, it adds to the firearms’ repository of the right wing and fascists. If GoI was to spend such a huge money for the minorities, it should be for their overall development and welfare, and not for their pilgrims who are usually well-to-dos, since no country can grow or progress sidelining and marginalizing the minorities constituting 20% of the population. Actually, GoI doesn’t subsidize for Hajj . These figures relating to the so called Hajj subsidy, whatever it may be, are cooked up for both domestic and external purposes. On the other hand GoI profits around Rs. 2000 crores (Rs. 20,000 from each pilgrim) without taking into consideration of volume business. It is astonishing to note that GoI is seen so “generous” towards the Muslim minorities in India only in the case of Hajj that it bestows such an exorbitant “subsidy” for Hajj pilgrims even without a request for it while so many genuine and legitimate demands of the Muslim minority are denied blatantly. What a generosity and benevolence!! Actually, if Indian govt. was to spend what it profits from Hajj pilgrims every year, leave alone the non-existing subsidy, back to the overall welfare of the Muslim minorities, the situation of Muslim Minority in India would have been quite different from what we do see right now. Rather than resorting to such hoaxes and ruses, it is high time for Indian government to come forth with something sincere and genuine for the upliftment of the minorities who happen to be the most backward of all sects because of historical reasons.


    1. John is very much correct and one more writer above when he says it is a colonial legacy to provide subsidy to the Hajj pilgrims. The real point lies in the spirit of Islam the religion itself. The Holy Quran Says, “[ 2:196] You shall observe the complete rites of Hajj and `Umrah for GOD. If you are prevented, you shall send an offering, and do not resume cutting your hair until your offering has reached its destination. If you are ill, or suffering a head injury (and you must cut your hair), you shall expiate by fasting, or giving to charity, or some other form of worship. During the normal Hajj, if you break the state of Ihram (sanctity) between `Umrah and Hajj, you shall expiate by offering an animal sacrifice. If you cannot afford it, you shall fast three days during Hajj and seven when you return home – this completes ten -provided you do not live at the Sacred Masjid. You shall observe GOD, and know that GOD is strict in enforcing retribution.”

      At one another place in the Holy Book of Islam, the GOD ordains the believers as, ” [2:197] Hajj shall be observed in the specified months. Whoever sets out to observe Hajj shall refrain from sexual intercourse, misconduct, and arguments throughout Hajj. Whatever good you do, GOD is fully aware thereof. As you prepare your provisions for the journey, the best provision is righteousness. You shall observe Me, O you who possess intelligence.” By this way the Lord GOD of Islam never wish that the Muslims compulsarily avail the benefit of subsidy. GOD says that the best provision is the righteousness and no any Government can provide a relief to do reghteousness. Muslims themselves should go against this kinds of evils


  10. Let us forget the scale and get down to the basics

    One airline is offering a Delhi Jeddah Delhi airfare at rupees 26,000, While the Government of India says that it is subsidising the national carrier to the tune of Rupees 28,000 per pilgrim to offset the high cost of air fares.

    Something is horribly wrong.

    The demand for removing the subsidy and permitting pilgrims’ associations or committees take over the arrangement has been raised time and again, but those benefiting from this arrangement will not let go.

    let us assume that the return airfare is the same across all airlines and so whether the 1 lakh pilgrims fly by Saudia or Air India the airline carrying them would get
    100,000 x 26,000 = 2,600,000,000 rupees 260 crore
    this is no small change for any airline
    and certainly not for Air India

    let us also assume that the GOI’s claim of subsidising Air India to the tune of rupees 28,000 is not correct and they are paying them the prevailing rate of rupees 26,000 per passenger.

    in this case the GOI is still pocketing 100,000 x 2000 =200000000 Rupees 20 crore per annum.

    This then is the myth of subsidy.

    If an organisation was to ask international airlines to bid for flying 100000 passengers every year and to fly them back after a fixed no. of days, international airlines will queue up to lap up the offer and probably offer special discounts to the organisation to get this business.

    Let the Government get out of this messy business, let it not subsidise this or any other non secular activity and let those who wish to go to Mecca, Kailash, Vatican, Kumbh or wherever, pay for their pilgrimage.


  11. Here’s an old piece arguing against Hajj subsidy by Mohib Ahmed:

    Also, here’s a sting operation exposing corruption in Hajj committees:

    Apart perhaps from Hajj committee members, there’s no Indian Muslim voice that does NOT oppose the Hajj subsidy. There’s clearly a need for reform, and those who go on Hajj should run a campaign asking for lessening state control on Hajj and doing away with the Hajj subsidy.

    Instead of Hajj committees deciding who should go on Hajj, this should be decided either by a lottery or be given on a first-come-first-serve basis.

    And to “an indian” above who wants the government of India to subsidise travels to the Pittsburgh Balaji temple, firstly, I couldn’t stop laughing at that. Such ridiculous nonsense doesn’t deserve a response, but I do want to wonder aloud what subsidy the poor Indian taxpayer can give to us atheists. Perhaps space travel?


    1. @ Shivam Vij, >>>>>>>>but I do want to wonder aloud what subsidy the poor Indian taxpayer can give to us atheists. Perhaps space travel?>>>>>> then what makes the Atheists worry about some people getting or not getting any subsidy for some pilgrimages?

      We can go to Thurstan College in Colombo to see the skeleton of the late Dr. Abraham Thomas Kovoor.


  12. Yes, I agree the GOI should not subsidise something so religiously personal like Hajj. As someone has rightly suggested it should simply be outsourced to some very professional firm through auction. But then we are a confused lot in terms of our economy–we are mixed. A strict Capitalist Economy would discourage all sorts of Subsidies. Are we not enjoying the benefits of all that is coming our way cheap– LPG, Petrol and so on and so forth. What do our learned brothers say about the money worth of reservations and scholarships to SC, ST and BC?

    But when we Muslims claim something considering that to be our right, everyone stands up against us. Why this discrimination? Men of Knowledge, think about it!

    We only wanted to say that the GOI makes tall claims of Hajj subisdy but the reality is something else.


  13. in this case the GOI is still pocketing 100,000 x 2000 =200000000 Rupees 20 crore per annum.

    This then is the myth of subsidy.

    Dear Sohail,

    No. You have ignored what I wrote in my comment about overheads. The cost of bureaucracy needed to administer the programme has to be included in the accounting which has not been done.

    Actually, more is done by the GoI. It deputes officers, doctors and paramedics to be on duty in Saudi Arabia for the period of the Haj. You can check the Haj Committee of India’s website if you don’t believe me. It seems to me that expenditures on this count will also have to be taken into account.

    As I said in my original comment, even with all this, it may be that the total revenue gathered from the pilgrims is more than the total expenditure of the GoI for organizing the Haj. In which case, you would have a good case that the whole subsidy is a myth. But you need to do a proper audit, not the sloppy accounting that has been presented. If anyone is seriously interested, then perhaps they could use the RTI to get the relevant information and do a thorough accounting.

    From my perspective, the GoI should not be involved in this affair at all, irrespective of whether the Haj subsidy is a myth or not.


    1. Dear Sir

      In that case ,all our expenditure on consulate all over the globe is being recovered from NRIs. The bandobast made at kumbh mela for amarnath yatra is being reimbursed by the pligrims. We muslims are demnding for a long time to stop giving subsidies on Hajj and also accomodation be at saudi should be arranged in a more transparent manner. There should be global tender to ferry the Hajji’s. This will demolish the myth of the subsidy in conclusive manner


  14. You should apply individdually and pay everything. Govt should not susidise on the basis of religion anyway.


  15. Isn’t it great that such matters can be brought out, shared widely… and discussed !

    @sameer, I hold a similar view. How else can we earnestly oppose the view of “an indian” that calls for subsidies to Pittsburg and Vatican (@Shivam: Irrespective of whether “an indian” was serious about the argument or was advancing it playing the devil’s advocate, I accept it for its pedantic value more than for its value as a target for ridicule! But a view is a view, yours as good as mine!).

    I believe governments should keep out of all these matters of faith, and instead focus on delivering government services with as little corruption as possible (my view!).

    @Rohit: Thanks for sharing the British historical background of the policy. I think successive Indian governments have been simply following many British policies, like sleep walkers, and this is another. Scrapping the policy might have been bad for politics, so some clever genius might have thought, why not milk the gullible and tell them that they are being fed milk and honey ? That seems possible, given the general make up of the ruling elite.

    @Anand: Since the Indian government offers these inexplicable subsidies, and does seem to have short changed at least one person, Farooq, I think the sample size of 1 is good enough as a counter-example that disproves the claim of subsidy (mathematically speaking, does the “identity” hold for all elements of the domain ? If there exists one counter-example, it is enough to disprove the supposed identity!).

    I suggest Farooq move the Consumer Court in India for redressal, with all documents and his ticket price research attached. Wish you victory, Farooq ! And please do come back here and post your follow-up, I will celebrate with you.

    I also believe that it is very important to leave a public record of the matter. Long live citizens’ media !


  16. Dear all,

    please calculate the bus services provided by them,medical facilities, mina & arfa accommodation etc.

    I am appreciating the govt. of India about all facilities providing by them.
    Alhumdulilah, I worked in Makkah as a Mechanical Engineer for 15months & I closely watched all facilities by our Indian Govt.

    & also most for Indian HAjis is not educated & nearly about the age of 60-65years. Once again I am appreciating Indian govt.



  17. Im thinking here.. if not Air India, a government carrier, which other private carrier has the capacity to deploy hundreds of flights to carry 1L pilgrims in such short time?
    Which other carrier can afford the expense of flying back all those aircraft empty???
    And the same above questions for the return journey of the pilgrims?
    Also remember Hajj takes place during peak vacation season when flights to holiday destinations will return higher profits for the private carriers.Will these carriers instead fly all their routes for Hajj?

    i think if Government steps aside, no more than a few thousand per year will be able to make it to Hajj..
    i think there is more to it than just 26K v/s 28k etc number based analysis..


  18. As properly put by Mr Rajeev Sharma, it is Rs.28,000 (Twenty eight million Rupees) per pilgrim which performs out to Rs.280 Crores for a Lakh of pilgrims.


  19. 1) The money is spent by the Hajj Committee, which would be able to provide a better break-up, since they now subscribe to and adher to the RTI Act of India 2005

    2) Air fare during this peak pilgrimage season is higher, I presume, and also takes into account one-way empty on both legs.

    3) How reliable are the private operators?


  20. Does Pakistan (Created by Muslims for Muslims) give subsidy to its Muslim citizens for Haj travel


  21. Why should a government which claims itself to be secular should be providing subsidies for religious events or pilgrims? Is it not unconstitutional? Moreover, temples are also tax free. Why does no one sees a contradiction in what the constitution says and what the govt practice? When secular means separation of govt and religion, then how come govt is providing assistance on the basis of religion and for religious matters?

    Or, is it that I am wrongly believing India to be a secular nation.


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