Sunday, November 5, 2017
Various allegations of irregularities, including bad performance, have been found against some 100 hajj agencies in a recent probe conducted by the Religious Affairs Ministry, with recommendations to prevent them from taking part in the next year's hajj management.
Talking to UNB, acting religious affairs secretary Anisur Rahman said, "We've so far received formal complaints against over 90 agencies for various irregularities."
The secretary said religious affairs minister principal Matior Rahman himself has gone on the hard-line against them and vowed not to treat them leniently.
"The agencies found guilty will face criminal charges, financial penalties, cancellation of their licenses, etc -- all as per the degree of the charges against them," Anisur added.
From the next year, he mentioned, more than one inter-ministerial meeting will be held to keep the hajj management process error-free. Policies regarding hajj management will also be revised by then.
Asked about the details regarding possible amendments, the secretary said it is difficult to predict, as the Saudi government revises its rules and regulations regarding hajj on a yearly basis.
He revealed that 11 agencies have not paid their pilgrims' housing and Moallem fees. Their representatives were also not present when they had to escort their pilgrims to Mina. So, the Saudi government had enforced an embargo on those travellers from performing hajj.
It was only after paying the authorities a bond for 500 Saudi Riyal per pilgrim and assurance from the Bangladeshi mission office that they were allowed to perform hajj.
Four out of those 11 agencies cleared their Moallem fees afterwards-- one has partially paid while the remaining six are yet to pay up. When visiting their offices for inspection, the addresses were found to be false.
Other allegations include not paying the housing fees and not giving travel allowance to pilgrims. Some had even embezzled all the pilgrims' money and fled.
Anisur stated that a ministerial investigation committee will be formed within two weeks, after which they will submit an investigation report with all their findings.
Legal actions will be taken against the responsible agencies, as well as stopping their operations for 1-2 years.
Speaking to UNB, secretary general of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) Shahadat Hossain Taslim said they will support the government's decision regarding punishing the guilty agencies.
The secretary said as per his ministry's statistics, most of the 1,27,198 hajj participants have returned by now. The ones still missing may have come back using any other airline apart from Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudia Airlines.
A total of 1,27,229 pilgrims, including all administrative and hajj management representatives, have performed hajj from Bangladesh this year.
Beginning on 31 August, some 635 Hajj agencies sent 1,27,198 pilgrims under private management.
Half the pilgrims flew in Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the other half opted for Suadia Airlines.
Some 152 people, 119 being men and 33 women, died during performing their hajj this year and of those, 106 died in Makkah, 24 in Madina, 6 in Jeddah and 16 in Mina.