‘The Hajj and Umrah Management Bill, 2021’ was passed in the Parliament on Tuesday in a bid to deal with irregularities and mismanagement in the sector.
State Minister for Religious Affairs Md Faridul Haque Khan placed the bill, which was passed by voice vote in the House.
The draft law was approved by the Cabinet on December 28 last year and it was placed in Parliament on April 4 this year which was sent to the parliamentary standing committee on the respective ministry for further scrutiny. The bill was passed in the Parliament after scrutiny.
Md Faridul Haque Khan said that the government moved forward to frame a legal structure for bringing more discipline in the Hajj and Umrah management. Saudi Arabia changed the Hajj management system in 2011. Later, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia framed laws on the issue. “We also need a legal structure to equip with Hajj management,” he said.
After the enactment of the new law, Hajj and Umrah activities will be monitored by the government directly. However, the real pilgrims will get benefit as none without having registration could deal with any pilgrim.
The government has been carrying out the Hajj and Umrah activities only on the basis of a Hajj policy for the past 50 years, since the country’s independence. The policy is released each year just before the pilgrimage season. Against this backdrop, the Religious Affairs Ministry moved forward in this regard in line with a directive issued by the Cabinet in 2012.
It is alleged that many Hajj and Umrah agencies owners have several licences. If one is cancelled, he or she runs the business with another licence. In absence of law, pilgrims under private management face sufferings. Many agencies don’t provide proper services even after taking money from Hajj pilgrims. A section of agency owners and some government employees allegedly consider the Hajj season as a ‘money-making season’.
Allegations are brought against many Hajj and Umrah agencies that they don’t arrange accommodation and transportation for the pilgrims as promised when they reached Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, whenever the government makes a move against any agency, it brings a stay order from the High Court challenging the action. In absence of law, no legal action could be taken by the authorities concerned against irregularities in many cases. So, a legal structure is needed to deal with Hajj and Umrah management properly.
According to the bill, no one will be able to deal with Hajj and Umrah pilgrims without registration, while the registration of any Hajj and Umrah agency can be cancelled and its deposit can be seized if it is involved in corruption, fraudulence and human trafficking in the name of conducting Hajj and Umrah.
A Hajj agency can be fined maximum Tk 50 lakh, while an Umrah agency with Tk 15 lakh for irregularities.
The bill also says that if any agency gets warnings for two years in a row, its registration will automatically be suspended for the same period. However, lawsuits can also be filed against criminal offences committed in the Hajj and Umrah management.
If a Bangladeshi gets involved in Hajj-related anomalies even in Saudi Arabia, he can be treated that the offence happened in Bangladesh and legal steps can be taken.
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