Bangladeshis who wish to perform hajj will have to spend more for the pilgrimage this year, mainly due to the increase in airfare and visa fees.
The government yesterday approved three draft hajj packages.
Hajis will have to pay Tk 4.25 lakh for package-1 and Tk 3.60 lakh for package-2 to perform hajj under government management, which is Tk 6,500 and Tk 16,000 more than the corresponding packages of the previous year.
With affordability in mind, the government has also introduced package-3 for the first time, which hajis can avail at a cost of Tk 3.15 lakh.
Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam revealed the packages at a press briefing at the Secretariat following the Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The cabinet secretary said that the hajj packages were categorized according to the distance of the pilgrims' accommodations from Masjid al Haram.
"Intended hajis under package-1 will get accommodation within 700 metres of the boundary of Masjid al Haram while a pilgrim under package-2 will get accommodation facility within a distance of 1,500 metres, and under the package-3 a hajj pilgrim will get accommodation beyond the distance of 1,500 metres," he added.
The Hajj packages include the expenses of food, airfare, and all other costs except those surrounding the observance of Eid-ul-Azha, the cabinet secretary said.
Each pilgrim will have to pay around Tk 12,075 to complete Eid formalities, including slaughtering the animal, said Khandker.
This year, 1,37,198 people will go to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj and 17,198 of them will go under government management. The rest will perform hajj under different private hajj agencies.
In 2019, the Saudi government fixed a quota of 1,27,198 Bangladeshis to be given the opportunity to perform hajj and 7,198 made the pilgrimage availing government packages.
Upon Bangladesh government's request, the Saudi government raised the quota for Bangladesh by 10,000 this year.
The airfare for a hajj pilgrim has been fixed at Tk 1,38,000, a Tk 10,000 increase from last year, but cost of fuel and other charges at Saudi Airport have remained the same. The visa fee has also increased by Tk 7,000 this year, said sources at the religious affairs ministry.
Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh, a platform of private hajj tour operators, and State Minister for Religious Affairs Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had earlier criticised the civil aviation ministry's decision to increase the airfare.
Talking to The Daily Star, HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim said yesterday that they would announce the hajj package within three to four days in line with the government hajj package.
The holy hajj is likely to be held in July 31 depending on the moon sighting in Saudi Arabia.
Khandker Anwarul yesterday said that the government is trying hard to ensure that pre-arrival immigration of all hajis are completed from Dhaka so that pilgrims can avoid the hardship of waiting hour upon hour at the Saudi Airport.
According to the government's draft hajj policy, a private hajj agency can send a maximum of 300 and minimum of 100 hajis from Bangladesh. A guide will be assigned for every 44 pilgrims.
The registration of prospective hajis is likely to start within a week, said the HAAB president.