The Central government on Tuesday, while advocating their policy of empowerment without appeasement, withdrew subsidy given to Haj pilgrims.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said even after the announcement at least 1.75 lakh pilgrims will visit Saudi Arabia for Haj pilgrimage without subsidy, while adding that ‘saved’ funds will be used for education od minorities, particulary girls.

The decision to abolish Haj subsidy comes a day after the government allowed Muslim women above the age of 45 to go on pilgrimage without male guardian, and in groups of at least four, according to media reports.

A policy to withdraw the Haj subsidy had been drafted in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order asking the Centre to abolish it gradually by 2022. The Ministry of Minority Affairs had asked a panel to review the Haj policy and suggest a framework for a new policy for 2018-22, according to media reports.

Earlier in January, Abbas had said that Saudi Arabia has increased India’s Haj quota by 5,000, the second hike in two years, taking the number of pilgrims who can perform Haj from the country to 1,75,025 lakh.

The increase in India’s quota will be effective from Haj to be held later this year. Saudi Arabia last year increased India’s quota by 35,000. In 2017, the Haj quota was 1,70,025.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia had agreed to India’s proposal to revive the option of Haj pilgrimage through sea route.