Saudi Hajj and umrah ministry has vented annoyance that seven private travel operators from Bangladesh caused trouble to several hundred pilgrims on their arrivals in Saudi Arabia, leading Bangladesh government to ask explanations from to those Hajj agencies.
According to the Bangladesh religious affairs ministry, the seven Hajj agencies had not provided 482 pilgrims with no information related to their services and accommodation once they reached in Saudi Arabia.
The ministry said that despite repeated warning, the Bangladeshi Hajj agencies did not comply with their instruction tarnishing the image of the country.
Bangladesh Pilgrims and Haji Welfare Council president Abdullah Al Naser accused Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh of not performing correctly causing sufferings to the pilgrims.
Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh secretary general M Shahadat Hossain Taslim, however, denied the allegation.
Religious affairs ministry secretary, Anisur Rahman said that a number of Hajj agencies were not complying with the rules.
According to the show-cause notices, Akbar Overseas of Rajshahi and Mobasera Travels and Tours of Dhaka arranged travel of 89 and 49 pilgrims respectively on July 16 by Saudi Arabian Airlines.
It was found that the no information related to their accommodation and Hajj services were tagged with their passports at the annoyance of the Saudi Hajj authorities.
Cascade Travel and Tours brought pilgrims Tozammel Hoque and his wife Shefali Begum to Makkah on July 18 and kept them at separate houses, annoying Saudi authorities.
Al Sekandar and Travels took 222 pilgrims to Madina on July 18 and the Saudi authorities found pre-arrival data of 90 of them were not sent to Saudi e-Hajj system.
Marvelous Media Services of Sylhet, Vaoul Tours and Travel of Gazipur and River Valley Travel of Dhaka arranged travels of 118, 119
and 15 pilgrims on July 21 and July 22 respectively and information related to their accommodation and Hajj services were not tagged with their passports.
‘Saudi agencies were disturbed and Saudi Hajj and umrah ministry vented strong reactions,’ said the show-cause notices that asked the seven Bangladeshi Hajj agencies to explain their positions in seven days.
Hajj office at Makkah said that at least five Bangladeshi pilgrims had died so far while nearly 5,000 others received medical treatment.
At least 31 other Hajj agencies in were also delaying deposition of their payment or completion of the formalities to get tickets and visas for over 5,500 pilgrims as of Friday evening, officials said.
Between July 16 and July 22, the religious affairs ministry held four meetings with 144 Hajj agencies, guides and tour operators and asked them to purchase their tickets or deposit pay order against their clients.
On Thursday, Hajj director Saiful Islam asked all the Hajj agencies who were yet to replace their pilgrims to finalise their list of pilgrims.
As many Hajj agencies were yet to comply with the orders, Biman Bangladesh Airlines had to cancel two dedicated Hajj flights on Thursday.
Until 6:30pm on Friday, the religious affairs secretary, hajj director and Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh secretary general were in a meeting to finalise the list of replacement of pilgrims and to determine who were yet to obtain the visa and tickets.
The religious affairs secretary said the association leader continued contacting the Hajj operators who were yet to submit their pay order for 3,835 pilgrims.
Biman general manager for public relations Shakil Meraj said that they were compelled to cancel two Hajj flights due to shortage of pilgrims but those who purchased tickets timely were carried to Saudi Arabia by regular flights.
He said no flight would be cancelled on Saturday but nearly 4,000 tickets for the dedicated flights between July 29 and August 6 remained unsold.
‘We are requesting time to time 528 Hajj agencies to check who else need to buy tickets,’ said Shakil.
‘We estimate the number of pilgrims would be about 4,500 who would suffer at last time if the Hajj agencies did not cooperate with the government Hajj management,’ said hajji rights activist Abdullah Al Naser. He also urged the government to increase the replacement upto 15 per cent to solve the crisis.
On July 21, religious affairs minister Motiur Rahman announced at the press conference at the ministry that additional 4 per cent replacement would be allowed as initially announced 4 per cent (4,614) pilgrims were already replaced.
On July 14, the first Hajj flight carrying 419 pilgrims reached Jeddah in Saudi Arabia as Biman Bangladesh Airlines began its Hajj operations from Dhaka.
The government would facilitate 6,198 pilgrims to perform Hajj and the rest 1,20,000 pilgrims would perform Hajj through private means.
Until late July 26, 57,391 of the 1,26,198 Bangladeshis pilgrims reached Saudi cities on Biman and Saudia since July 14, said Hajj management officials.