Andhra Pradesh to pay for Christians to visit Israel
HYDERABAD, India |
HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - The Andhra Pradesh government will subsidise pilgrimage trips for Christians who want to travel to Israel, officials said.
There are about 1.2 million Christians in the state, representing nearly 2 percent of the state's population. Among them is Chief Minister Y.S. Rajsekhara Reddy.
The subsidy is being modelled on that already offered by the central government to Muslims wanting to join the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca, according to N.D. Tiwari, the state governor, in announcing the subsidy.
New Delhi even has a special haj air terminal for Muslims, who account for about 13 percent of India's 1.1 billion population.
Political opponents, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, say Reddy's government is pandering to minority communities ahead of state elections next year.
Details of the subsidy are still to be decided, Mohammad Ali Shabbir, the minister for minorities welfare, said on Tuesday.
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