JS panel wants action against errant Hajj agencies

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Pns: Ninety-eight people have missed this year’s hajj, thanks to fraudulent hajj and travel agencies. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry yesterday recommended that the ministry should cancel the licences of these agencies. Earlier, religious affairs minister Motiur Rahman, religious affairs ministry secretary Abdul Jalil, hajj officer Syful Islam, and the secretary general of the Hajj Agencies’ Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), Shahadat Hossain Taslim, had said that they would not go to hajj this year if any pilgrims were left behind. But they all left for Mecca on Sunday.

“We have received complaints against 18 agency owners. Stern action will be taken against them. Even their licences may be cancelled. Besides, criminal cases will also be filed against them,” joint secretary of the religious affairs ministry Hafizur Rahman told reporters at a press briefing in the secretariat. He claimed that the deprived 98 pilgrims will get priority to go on hajj next year.

According to hajj office sources, the agencies that allegedly swindled the pilgrims are Eco Aviation and Tourism (20 pilgrims), Al Safa Air Travel (16 pilgrims), Golden Travels and Cargo Services (eight pilgrims), Gulshan-e-Muhammadia Travels (seven pilgrims), Siddikya Tours and Travels (six pilgrims), Ullama Aulia Hajj Group Bangladesh (six pilgrims), Asha Aviation (six pilgrims), United Tours (five pilgrims), Sawban Air Travels (five pilgrims), Bushra Travels and Tours (three pilgrims), Madina Air International Aviation (three pilgrims), N-E Air Services (three pilgrims), Saad Air International (three pilgrims), Golden Bengal Travels and Tours (two pilgrims), Euro Asia Travels and Tourism (two pilgrims), Al Balad Overseas (one pilgrim), Mesfallah Travels (one pilgrim), Midway Aviation (one pilgrim).

The members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry also suggested that the ministry should take steps to fine the hajj agencies, if needed. The committee meeting was held at the Jatiya Sangsad with its chairman Muhammad Faruk Khan in the chair yesterday.

The parliamentary watchdog suggested that from the next hajj season, the full airfare should be collected from the hajj agencies once the tickets are booked.

It also asked the ministry to take action against those who were responsible for the anomalies in the hiring of two aircraft from Egypt by Biman Bangladesh in 2014. The committee also asked for a report on the steps that have been taken following the findings of the parliamentary subcommittee.

According to the subcommittee report, which was placed before the committee on July 27, Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd incurred a loss of Tk. 300 crore following the lease. If steps are not taken immediately, Biman will incur a further loss of Tk. 56 crore, the report said.

In 2014, the two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft were taken on lease from Egypt Airlines for five years. One aircraft was added to Biman’s fleet in March 2014, while the other in May 2014.

The committee members who attended the meeting were civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon, Nazrul Islam Chowdhury, Kamrul Ashraf Khan, Rowshan Ara Mannan, and Sabiha Nahar.

PNS/Tamanna Khan