Hajj agencies spurn punishment

Hajj pilgrims at the airport. Photo: Prothom Alo 

Despite facing penalty over the past two years for various irregularities, a total of 26 hajj agencies have created a crisis for around 4,000 intended hajj pilgrims this year again.

The pilgrimage of over 4,000 Bangladeshis still remains uncertain as their hajj agencies are yet to apply for visas and rent houses in time for the pilgrims.

Biman and Saudi Airlines started carrying pilgrims from 24 July.

So far, a total of 33 hajj flights have been cancelled due to the shortage of pilgrims.

According to religious affairs ministry officials, a total of 91 hajj agencies compounded the crisis as they failed to complete visa procedures and rent houses in due time.

Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) secretary general Shahadat Hossain told Prothom Alo that only a few agencies are involved with irregularities and mismanagement.

The same dubious persons take licences in different names, he added.

Shahadat also said that these people should be identified and measures have to be taken so that they can never get licences.

On 10 August, the religious affairs ministry served 377 hajj operators including the 91 with show cause notices for irregularities.

The religious affairs ministry penalised a total of 26 hajj agencies – 13 in 2015 and another 13 in 2016 – on charges of irregularities and mismanagement.

In this context, former HAAB chairman Mohammad Ibrahim told Prothom Alo, “Pilgrims suffer every year due to some agencies. The ministry fines the agencies after hajj, but the agencies don’t care about the punishment as the fine is too scanty.”

In 2016, the religious affairs ministry fined 84 hajj agencies for different anomalies, deception, and mismanagement. Among the agencies, Gulf Travels was fined Tk 5,00,000 and Gaus Pak Tours and Travels Tk 4,00,000.

Al Aqsa Travels, Gausia Travels and Tours, Abrar Tours and Travels, Mozaddia Hajj Travels and Tours, SM Travels International were fined Tk 2,00,000 each.

Salamat Hajj Travels and Tours, Solaiman Travels and Tours, SN Travels and Tours, Noorani Tours and Travels, Zanurain Travels were fined Tk 1,00,000 each.

Managing director of Gulf Travels, Mohammad Shah Alam, claimed that their 213 passengers will fly for Saudi Arabia in a day or two.

However 190 pilgrims of Gulf Travels, of the 213 with visas, could not yet fly for Makkah.

“How can I send pilgrims before the date I rented houses for the pilgrims?” said Mohammad Mohiuddin, owner of Gausia Travels and Tours.

Jont secretary of the religious affairs ministry Mohammed Hafiz Uddin told Prothom Alo, if any agency penalised in the past is involved in irregularities this time two, their licences will be revoked.

Source: Prothom Alo

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