Act tough on hajj tour operators

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JS body recommends as pilgrims complain of irregularities, sufferings

Private tour operators involved in various irregularities in hajj operations this year will have to face the music as a parliamentary body yesterday recommended taking tough actions against them for causing sufferings to pilgrims in Dhaka and Saudi Arabia.

The actions suggested by the parliamentary standing committee on the religious affairs ministry included cancellation of the agencies’ licences and not allowing them to send hajis to Saudi Arabia for a year, said chief of the committee Bazlul Haque Haroon, also an Awami League lawmaker.

The parliamentary watchdog yesterday also formed a three-member sub-committee to identify the hajj operators involved in deceiving hajis, Haroon told The Daily Star after a committee meeting at parliament.

Headed by Haroon, the sub-committee was asked to submit its report before the parliamentary watchdog within two weeks.

Asked, the committee chief said they already received various complaints from hajis for their sufferings, especially during their stay in Saudi Arabia.

The pilgrims faced different kinds of sufferings mostly because of negligence of hajj tour operators as most of them did not keep their promises, he added.

For example, Haroon said some hajis even had to stay at the basements of houses in Saudi Arabia as the respective hajj tour operators did not arrange accommodations for them in hotels or houses as promised.

Bangladesh Hajj Office in Makkah informed the committee that some hajj agencies even did not rent any house or hotel either in Makkah or Madina for their hajis. It also recommended taking actions against those agencies.

The hajj office also said some agencies did not provide the hajis food and accommodation on time.

Some hajj agencies did not pay “moallem” (guide) fees to the Saudi authorities, earning a bad name for the country in Saudi Arabia and abroad.

Some 127,103 Bangladeshis performed hajj this year. Around 90 pilgrims failed to go to Saudi Arabia as the respective hajj agencies did not arrange air tickets for them.

Hajis are returning home, and the last return hajj flight is scheduled today, said sources at the Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

Due to some hajj agencies’ dilly-dallying in arranging visas, air tickets and accommodations in Saudia Arabia, several thousand pilgrims suffered in Dhaka.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Airlines had to cancel 27 hajj flights due to shortage of passengers.

During yesterday’s meeting, the JS body also asked the religious affairs ministry to take actions against the hajj agencies responsible for cancellation of hajj flights, the body chief told this correspondent.

As private tour operators often provide poor services to pilgrims, the JS body suggested that the ministry send more hajis under government arrangements from next year.

The Bangladesh Hajj Office in Saudi Arabia informed the committee that 185 Bangladeshi hajis died during performing hajj this year.

Daily Star