On 25 March, the Uttar Pradesh government announced that it would double the financial grant/subsidy given to pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. The grant will be raised from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000.
The announcement was made by the UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath in his first speech to the state’s Secretariat. The Chief Minister opined that the grant would encourage more people to undertake the Yatra which, among other things, involves trekking up to a height of 19,500 feet. The grant, which has been in effect for years in varying amounts, can be availed by any pilgrim with a domicile certificate or a copy of the passport, certifying that they belong to UP.
The average cost of the Yatra for a person is estimated to be around Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh (for full details of fees and expenditure visit the MEA page).
The subsidy had been doubled by the previous Samajwadi Party government as well – from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra occurs during June to September each year through two different routes – Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim).
The Yatra is known for its religious and cultural significance. It is undertaken by hundreds of people every year. It is open to eligible Indian citizens holding valid Indian passports.
The Ministry of External Affairs does not provide any subsidy or financial assistance to Yatris – the states, however, do. Other than UP, currently Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand – of their own – directly provide varied sums of money to their citizens to cover a part of their Yatra expenses of about Rs 1,50,000.
Religious subsidies in India
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is one of the several subsidies provided by state governments and the Centre to religious groups.
A few of the subsidies include:
- The Haj subsidy: Through the form of discounted airfares on Air India flights, the Government takes care of all transportation costs of Muslim pilgrims from Mumbai to Jeddah. Throughout the last century, the Government has subsided more travel locations to destinations including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Jordan.
- The four Kumbh Melas. The Central and State Governments spend over a thousand crores annually on the Melas, with several allegations of misuse of funds.
- Other pilgrimages attracting Centre and state funds include the Amarnath yatra, the Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana, etc.
Read more about religious subsidies in India here
The Logical Indian take
A secular government is the one that interferes with religious activities the least. Ministers in the UP government have for a long time criticised the Muslim Haj subsidy as anti-secular – and rightly so. But the doubling of a Hindu subsidy reeks of hypocrisy and the very same anti-secularism they were erstwhile so vocal about. The fact that the subsidy had also been doubled by the former Akhilesh Yadav government does not absolve the Yogi Aditya Nath government of indulging in the same practice – the practice they had previously described as non-secular and unconstitutional. Two wrongs don’t make a right.