NEW DELHI: The government of India (GoI) on Tuesday announced a remarkable reduction in airfare for people going on Haj with Union Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi describing it as a “major step”. “The PMO took a keen interest in this. The decision is in line with our empowerment without appeasement policy,” PTI quoted Naqvi as saying. “The decision to cut airfares will end the “political and economic exploitation” of Hajis “as was done during the Congress-led UPA regime,” added Naqvi. To drive home the point, Naqvi compared Haj airfares fixed during the former UPA regime and the ones for 2018. The fare reduction will be applicable to airlines, including Air India, Saudi Airlines and Flynas, an air carrier based in Saudi Arabia, to Jeddah and Medina from 21 airports in India. The round fare from Ahmedabad this year will be around Rs 65,015 as against Rs 98,750 in 2013- 2014. In the same way, the fare from Mumbai has been brought down to around Rs 57,857 from Rs 98,750 in 2013-14. This comes a month after the government abolished subsidies given to those on Haj pilgrimage. Naqvi had said that the move, in line with a Supreme court order of 2012, was part of the government’s efforts to “empower minorities” without appeasement. The main Opposition Congress hoped that the government would utilise the money for the welfare of poor children. A record 1.75 lakh Muslims will undertake the pilgrimage this year from India.