The government has taken various steps, including enacting a new law and reducing the number of Hajj agencies by cancelling their licences, to regularise Hajj and Umrah arrangements for pilgrims and to weed out unscrupulous agency owners. The steps have been taken after receiving allegations that some agency owners are involved in fraudulent practices like human trafficking. Sources say many Hajj agency owners rent their licenses to other people in exchange of hefty sums.
Besides, a section of greedy agency owners have allegedly started to invest the money deposited by pilgrims in other businesses. Many of them go on the run just before Hajj as they lose the money in the share market, the sources said. The religious affairs ministry has received over 100 allegations against Hajj agencies who failed to provide proper services to pilgrims in keeping with their commitment.
Earlier, the Saudi authorities had handed over a list of 104 Hajj agencies to the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh for taking legal action against them. Those agencies were involved in human trafficking in the name of sending people to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah.
Such fraudulent practices tarnish the image of the nation and put the government in an embarrassing position.
Considering these issues, the government is going to enact a new law, which is likely to be placed before Parliament soon to regulate Hajj and Umrah activities and agency owners.
State minister for religious affairs, Sheikh Md. Abdullah, said: “We are working to endorse the Hajj Act soon so that Hajj management can be ensured more smoothly.”
He also said action would be taken those agency owners involved in corrupt and fraudulent practices. “We are trying
to run the sector in a well-disciplined manner. We have just concluded Hajj very successfully with the help of the officials and employees concerned,” he added.
When told that many fraudulent people have obtained Hajj agency licences, Abdullah said: “We plan to reduce the number of agencies by cancelling some of the licences. We want to ensure that only genuine persons operate such agencies. We’ll take the initiative after completion of this year’s Hajj.”
According to sources, about 1,250 agency owners have obtained Hajj licences to send Bangladeshi nationals to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Of them, only 1,085 agencies are active.
Some complaints have been received by the ministry concerned and action would be taken as per the law, said religious affairs ministry joint secretary (Hajj) ABM Amin Ullah Nuri.
He said they were working to finalise the draft of the “Hajj Act” soon. “Once the draft is finalised, it would be sent to the cabinet and parliament for approval in the next session,” he added.
“We have received over 100 allegations on the recently concluded Hajj. The allegations include poor food quality and accommodation and transportation issues. We will take action after investigation,” Nuri said.
The Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) president, Shahadadt Hossain Taslim, said they would not have any problem if the number of Hajj agencies was reduced. “Criminals have no right to operate Hajj agencies. We want genuine agency owners. We’ll assist the government to make a list of those involved in fraudulent activities,” he said in reply to a query.
At present, the pilgrims can only blame private agency owners, but there is no provision to file allegations against the government management, the HAAB president said.
“This provision should be changed. Pilgrims who perform Hajj under government arrangements should also have the scope to complain about mismanagement and the officials concerned should be punished,” he adde