Strange aides for hajj medical team
At least 163 of the 171-member “Hajj Assistant Delegation” the religious affairs ministry sent to Saudi Arabia to help a Bangladeshi medical team treat pilgrims have no background in medicine.
Most of the delegation members are office assistants, drivers, gunmen, policemen, security guards, cleaners, personal assistants, pump operators, typists, compositors, carpenters, store keepers and orderlies.
Of the eight having relevant backgrounds, three are medical technologists, two pharmacists, two senior staff nurses and a health assistant, according to a list available at the website of religious affairs ministry.
At least 45 are office assistants and 27 are drivers of the religious affairs ministry, the minister's office and other government offices.
There are 15 gunmen and policemen in the delegation as well.
About 40 government staffers and officials working at different offices in the constituency of the religious affairs minister are included in the delegation.
Two gunmen and a “privileges staff” of the Religious Affairs Minister Motiur Rahman are in the delegation along with one staffer each from the LGRD and railways ministers.
The religious affairs and health ministries were supposed to prepare the list of delegation members but an official of the health ministry said the list was prepared ignoring the health ministry's suggestions.
Abdul Jalil, secretary of religious affairs ministry, told The Daily Star that they had to prepare the list as per the recommendations of different important offices and persons, including ministers and secretaries.
He said those sent in the Hajj Assistant Delegation would do three kinds of work, including serving sick pilgrims and helping them at the airports in Jeddah and Madina.
Asked how gunmen, drivers and office assistance could be of any use, Jalil said it was not necessary that all members of the team serve the sick.
About selecting around 40 people from the religious affairs minister's constituency, he said the minister has the authority to pick the people.
A top hajj official at the Bangladesh Hajj Mission in Saudi Arabia said such people do not come of any use to sick pilgrims.
“Treating and serving hajis are their main job. But most of the delegation members do not do that,” the official said wishing anonymity.
Health Minister Mohammed Nasim said he did not understand why drivers, gunmen or office assistant were included.
Minister Motiur Rahman's phone was found switched off last night.
However, talking to Bangla daily Prothom Alo, he said, “We included those who applied from Mymensingh.”
Talking about sending drivers, he told the daily that different ministries had requested him. “Besides there are many who are close to us. That's why we are taking them in Hajj Assistance Delegation,” he told Prothom Alo.
According to the religious affairs ministry circular, the team would stay at Makkah, Madina, and Jeddah from July 29 to September 5 and each of them would get Tk 8-10 lakh in accordance with their positions.
Earlier, the ministry sent a medical team comprising 114 doctors, 97 nurses, 43 pharmacists and 12 lab technicians for providing pilgrims with medical assistance in Saudi Arabia. The 171-member Hajj Assistant Delegation was sent to assist the medical team.
But members selected from medical colleges in Dhaka, Mymensingh and other medical institutions have no background in medicine or healthcare. They are mostly office assistants.
The gunman of Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad, “room caretaker” of Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury and her personal assistant, and a personal staffer of Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Mia were in the Hajj Assistant Delegation.
Several class-I officials, including a joint and an assistant secretary, were in the team.
Meanwhile, Saiful Islam, director of the Ashkona Hajj Camp, yesterday said all three Biman hajj flights left on time yesterday.
He said 65,000 pilgrims have got visas so far and that there would be no problems in the rest getting visas.
As of yesterday, Biman and Saudia carried around 40,500 pilgrims, said Shakil Meraj, general manager, public relation of Biman.
This year's maiden hajj flight from Chittagong carrying 416 Bangladeshi pilgrims left Hazrat Shah Amanat International Airport for Saudi Arabia on Friday.
In a views-exchange meeting on hajj at the airport, Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon told journalists, "Hopefully, we will be able to send all hajj pilgrims on time. We have already asked the authorities concerned of Saudi Arabia to give slots for the cancelled flights."