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Govt takes measures to increase Hajj pilgrims amid lower turnout

TALHA BIN HABIB | May 30, 2024 00:00:00

The government has taken measures to fulfil Hajj quota targets next year, as the number of registered Hajj pilgrims this year is much lower than the quota allocation, according to a director at Dhaka's Ashkona Hajj camp.

"We have taken initiatives to increase the number of Hajj pilgrims aiming to fulfil Hajj quotas next year," Director (Deputy Secretary) of the Hajj Office Muhammad Kamruzzaman told The Financial Express in a recent interview.

He said that Bangladesh received a Hajj quota of 127,198 from Saudi Arabia this year. Of the quota, 10,198 and 117,000 Hajj pilgrims could perform Hajj under government and non-government arrangements, respectively.

He said that this year, a total of 85,117 Hajj pilgrims, under both government and private management, have registered their names to perform Hajj.

Of them, 4,422 (4,323 Hajj pilgrims and 99 guides) are under government management, while 80,695 (78,895 Hajj pilgrims and 1,800 guides) are under private management.

Regarding fulfilling the Hajj quota, he said that as part of the initiative, the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, will motivate imams across the country by arranging training programmes aimed at motivating people to perform Hajj next year. Besides, local private Hajj agencies will also work to fulfil the Hajj quotas for next year, he said.

About flight operations for carrying Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, he said that three airlines are transporting Hajj pilgrims from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kamruzzaman said national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Saudi Airlines and Saudi Arabia-based Flynas have been carrying pilgrims since Hajj flights began on May 9, 2024. Of the total Hajj flights, Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate 118 flights, while Saudi Airlines will operate 75 and Flynas 35.

He said that Hajj pilgrims can find out their Hajj flight numbers through the e-Hajj portal. Besides, they will be able to find their dormitory number (out of a total of 24 dormitories at the Dhaka Hajj camp) through this portal.

Regarding banking facilities at the Hajj camp, he said that a total of 14 commercial banks, both public and private, are now operating there to facilitate currency exchange for pilgrims without any hassle.

Elaborating on the improvement of Hajj services under public management, he said that the government provided training to Hajj guides and improved other facilities, including online Hajj portal services.

He said that this year the Dhaka Hajj office has expanded the car parking area to accommodate more cars.

On health and hygiene, Mr Muhammad Kamruzzaman said that the Hajj camp is now free of mosquitoes following measures taken by Dhaka North City Corporation. The clinic at the Hajj camp is open 24 hours a day to provide medical services to pilgrims.

About safety, he said that they are providing 100 per cent safety and security to pilgrims. Hajj pilgrims can find out their flight and dormitory numbers through an app.

He said immigration on the Bangladesh side is completed at the Hajj camp, while immigration for Hajj pilgrims is completed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport before they board their flights.

He said that police and Ansar personnel, scouts and volunteers are active in cooperating with the pilgrims. Regarding the high airfare of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which has dismayed most of the pilgrims, he said, "It is a matter for Biman and other concerned government bodies."

Regarding the cost of Hajj, which many have attributed to the reduced number of Hajj pilgrims this year against the country's quota, he said, "The Bangladesh government did not raise the cost of Hajj; rather, house rents and other related costs have increased in Saudi Arabia."

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