The government yesterday took punitive actions against 193 hajj agencies for their irregularities in sending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia last year.
Of them, 53 agencies would not be able to send pilgrims as their licences had been suspended and were slapped fines ranging from Tk 1.5 lakh to Tk 5 lakh.
The rest of the agencies had also been fined and some of their security deposits had been confiscated, said an official of the religious affairs ministry.
"The steps have been taken following recommendations of a committee that probed allegations of irregularities against them," said Chowdhury M Babul Hasan, secretary of the ministry. He was talking to reporters at a press briefing at his secretariat office in the capital yesterday.
During the last hajj season, these agents cheated Bangladeshi pilgrims by charging extra residential fees and providing them with low quality food, Jahangir Alam, a deputy secretary of the ministry, told The Daily Star.
"Among the 193, licences of eight agencies have been cancelled and their security deposits confiscated," he said.
Last January, the committee headed by the ministry's Additional Secretary Bazlul Haque Biswas summoned 193 agencies to hearings to quiz about their irregularities.
It submitted the probe report to the higher authorities last month, Alam said.
Meanwhile, the Saudi government summoned 46 Bangladeshi hajj agents for their alleged involvement in various irregularities, including human trafficking.
It has already imposed a ban on these agencies for this year's hajj. The ban would be permanent if the agencies are found guilty of trafficking Bangladeshis.
Last month, Additional Secretary of the ministry Bazlul Haque Biswas told The Daily Star that around 10 to 12 agencies out of 46 were accused of human trafficking.
According to Bangladesh hajj mission in Jeddah, 262 Bangladeshis went to the Middle Eastern country last year in the guise of pilgrims, but did not return home.
Around 1, 1,758 Bangladeshi pilgrims are expected to perform hajj this year.