The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday enhanced financial assistance being given to Christians for undertaking pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other Biblical places.
A government order issued in this regard said pilgrims with an annual income of up to Rs 3 lakh would be given Rs 60,000 for pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jordan River, Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee.
The assistance was last enhanced to Rs 40,000 which was fixed by the then Chandrababu Naidu government in 2016.
Further, those with an income of over Rs 3 lakh would get Rs 30,000, up from Rs 20,000 as per the order issued by Minorities Welfare Department Principal Secretary Mohd Ilyas Rizvi.
The scheme was introduced in 2013, in the then united Andhra Pradesh, with an assistance of Rs 20,000 for pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
However, the decision might trigger criticism from the opposition parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party which is accusing the Jagan government of pampering minorities.
Apparently realising this, the Jagan government has clarified that giving financial assistance to minorities going on pilgrimage is an old policy pursued by the previous TDP government as well and the State has now only increased the quantum of amount following request from the minorities.
“This should not be seen as an appeasement and the opposition parties should not carry out uncalled for propaganda,” an official note said.
While the subsidies apply for Haj pilgrimage to Muslims and for Jerusalem and other Biblical places, to Christians, the State has also been allocated funds for the ‘Dhupa, Deepa, Naivedyam’ to Hindu temples and has been upholding the values giving due respect to all religions, the official note said.
The enhancement of assistance to minorities going on pilgrimage will cause an additional burden of Rs 14.22 crore to the state.