Start of Hajj flights on schedule uncertain
Staff Correspondent: It might not be possible for the government to start this year’s Hajj flights on May 31 in the absence of a Hajj package and lack of preparations on the part of Hajj agencies.
Apart from announcing the date for commencing the Hajj flights, airfare has already been fixed and Hajj agencies have been asked to determine lead agencies.
However, several responsible officials of different ministries and leaders of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) said that it would not be possible for this year’s maiden Hajj flight to leave for Saudi Arabia carrying pilgrims in the preannounced time. “It’s almost impossible to launch the first Hajj flight before June 15 as the Hajj package has not yet been announced. Besides, there’re a lot of work to be done, including fixing the number of registered passengers, determining the munazzem, renting houses and fixing food and vehicles,” said an official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, wishing not to be named.
People aged 65, meaning those who were born on or before June 30, 1957, will not be allowed to perform Hajj this year as per the decision made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to avoid the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Therefore, those people who have already registered for Hajj but crossed the stipulated age limit have to be replaced, said the official.
HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim on April 27 wrote a letter to the state minister for religious affairs requesting for announcing the Hajj package on an urgent basis and completing other activities within a short period of time.
The letter stated that a lengthy procedure is required to be followed for Hajj. This includes package announcement, registration of pilgrims, determination of munazzem, accommodation of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and sending Moallem fees and other expenses.
All these works are done after the announcement of the Hajj package. Only then embassy issues visas and the government begins operating Hajj flights.
The letter also mentioned that due to time constraints, timely management of Hajj has become challenging this year. It is important to determine the Hajj package and announce it quickly to conduct Hajj management activities smoothly and efficiently.
Another responsible official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs said they could not announce the Hajj package due to Eid holidays.
He said although the Hajj package needs to be approved by the cabinet, it will not happen this time.
Asked about the reason, the official said a national and an executive committee have been formed to conduct the Hajj activities according to the new Hajj Act.
The national committee is headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It consists of several ministers, secretaries and top leaders of the HAAB while the executive committee is headed by State Minister for Religious Affairs Faridul Haque Khan.
As a result, the Hajj package will be announced very soon without the approval of the cabinet, the official said.
According to sources at the ministry, the government is yet to know about the amount of various expenses, including house rent, food and transportation in Saudi Arabia, which are important to announce the Hajj package.
The HAAB president said, “This year time is much less for Hajj preparations due to the pandemic. But with so much work to do, the Hajj package needs to be announced quickly. It is not possible to do anything until the announcement of the package.”
Asked about this year’s Hajj flights scheduled to begin on May 31, he said, “It is not possible to begin Hajj flights at this time as many people may decide not to go for performing Hajj due to increased expenses after the announcement of the Hajj package. Therefore, lists of people who are willing to perform Hajj this year will have to be prepared anew.”
Taslim also said some 10,441 registered Hajj aspirants over the age of 65 will not be able to go for Hajj this time. “As a result, it will take time for them to decide whether to send their children or any other family member or to withdraw the money.”
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