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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Uncertainty looms over hajj pilgrims under private management

  • 4,289 people registered under government arrangement
  • 78,895 under private management
  • Houses not been rented for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia yet
  •  Reminders sent to all pilgrims asking them to pay quickly
Update : 19 Apr 2024, 10:25 AM

While all sorts of preparations for hajj have been completed smoothly under government management, most of the privately registered pilgrims complain of mismanagement and non-cooperation by agencies. 

According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the hajj agencies have been able to pay the full amount of 79 pilgrims so far. As a result, the hajj of most pilgrims is still uncertain.

This year, 4,289 people registered under government arrangement and 78,895 under private management. 

Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim complained that houses have not been rented for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia yet. They are not getting the assistance of the Hajj Mission, the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh and the Ministry of Religion in this regard.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, ministry officials said the amount deposited by the hajj agencies is far less than the cost set by the Saudi government. The agencies have deposited Tk2 lakh per pilgrim while Tk3,40,657 is required to cover house rent, transport and other expenses in Makkah and Madinah.

Among these agencies, 40 have deposited only Tk1 lakh. The ministry has issued show cause notices asking them to deposit the full amount.

Since June 30 last year, the agencies were asked to deposit the full amount by April 29 this year. The agencies are not paying any heed but took more money from the pilgrims.

Last November, the exchange rate of the Saudi riyal to the Bangladeshi taka was Tk29.74. However, HAAB took money from pilgrims at Tk31. As a result, pilgrims had to pay an additional Tk13,846.

Asked why the agencies are not depositing the money, they told the ministry that the pilgrims are delaying depositing the money, said a ministry official, seeking anonymity.

The ministry has sent reminders to all pilgrims asking them to pay quickly.

On February 1, the Saudi government introduced a new rule of depositing money through the Hajj Ministry instead of agencies. One same day, the directive was conveyed to all the agencies so that they could deposit the money on time.

But due to a lack of response from the agencies, the ministry deposited the preliminary cost of Tk26,000 on behalf of all pilgrims on March 11, ministry officials said.

Although the agencies and HAAB leaders did not say anything about these complaints on record, they blamed the ministry for mismanagement. “We are working to ensure that pilgrims do not suffer while performing hajj,” HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain said. 

“This time, there is uncertainty about 28,000 pilgrims going to Muzdalifah. They can only go to Mina and Arafat,” he added.

Noting that it is not possible to rent a house in Saudi Arabia due to the Ministry of Religion, he said: "The agency representatives have to go to Saudi Arabia to rent houses for the pilgrims. They are given Saudi Monajjems visa."

According to the instructions of the director of the Hajj Office, the agencies are waiting for the Monajjems by submitting the necessary documents, including passports. But the ministry could not give it yet, he alleged. 

The house rent will not be completed unless the representatives go to Saudi Arabia. A house cannot be rented without a representative and a hajj visa cannot be issued without a house being rented, the HAAB leader added. 

Asked about these issues, Additional Secretary (Hajj Wing) of the ministry Matiul Islam told Dhaka Tribune: "The Saudi government has closed Monajjems’ visas for various reasons, but anyone can go with a business visa. But the agency representatives are yet to seek the ministry's assistance for visas."

The ministry has already sent letters to all agencies to pay the rest of the amount by April 29, he added.

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