Hajj Registration: Poor response compels govt to extend deadline
Rashidul HasanOnly 18,140 Bangladeshis have completed registration till date to perform hajj this year against the country's quota of 1.27 lakh.
Due to the poor response in registration, the government has extended the registration deadline to February 28 from yesterday.
At least 15,000 of the 1.27 lakh were supposed to perform the ritual under government management and the rest under private management.
Top leaders of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) and Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) said despite the huge interest of people in performing hajj, fewer people registered due to the high cost of hajj packages this year.
According to sources at the religious affairs ministry, of the 18,140 registered people, 11,248 will perform hajj under private management and the rest under government management.
Hajj agencies now doubt whether Bangladesh will be able to meet the quota this year if the costs are not reduced.
A Bangladeshi will have to spend at least Tk 6.83 lakh to perform hajj under government management this year, up by around Tk 1.61 lakh from the previous year. The minimum cost for performing hajj under private management has been fixed at Tk 6.72 lakh this year, about Tk 1.5 lakh more than that of the previous year.
Apart from this, each pilgrim will have to pay about Tk 22,000 for a Qurbani coupon from the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia. The amount is used for meeting the expenses for sacrificing animals.
The hajj will be held in late June.
Abdus Salam Aref, general secretary of ATAB, said a Bangladeshi pilgrim will have to spend around Tk 8 to 9 lakh to complete hajj this year.
The HAAB, a platform of around 1,500 private hajj agencies, said this year's airfare was high for which the costs of hajj packages have increased significantly.
"The airfare of Biman was Tk 1.40 lakh last year. But this year it is around Tk 2 lakh ... ," said HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim.
Sources at the HAAB and ATAB said in India, the airfare is around Tk 1.25 lakh and in Pakistan it is about Tk 1 lakh.
"Due to the high prices of hajj packages, we are now worried whether the hajj agencies and the government will be able to send the targeted 1.27 lakh Bangladeshis to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj this year," he added.
Md Khorshed Alam, managing partner of Al-Madina Travels and Hajj Kafela, said many people had completed pre-hajj registration through his firm.
"When we are asking them why they are not completing their registration, 99 percent of them are saying that the prices of hajj packages have increased significantly this year.
"They say that they are finding it difficult to manage the additional money due to such huge increase in the prices," he said.
HAAB and ATAB leaders said in Bangladesh husband and wife, or mother and son or close relatives perform hajj together.
"Due to the increased costs, it would be very tough for a family to manage Tk 15 to 16 lakh for two persons," said the ATAB secretary general.
ATAB leaders said they have already asked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to reduce the prices of hajj packages.