Cabinet okays draft hajj package, pilgrims have to pay more this year

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Dhaka, Feb 26: The cabinet on Monday approved the draft Hajj Package, 2018, fixing the minimum cost for a pilgrim at Tk 3,97,929, up by Tk 16,421 from the previous year under the  package-1 of the government management.Held at the Prime Minister’s Office with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, the cabinet also endorsed the draft of the National Hajj and Umrah Policy, 2018, placed by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

At a press briefing after the meeting, cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said a total of 1,27,198 pilgrims from Bangladesh will be able to perform hajj this year.

Of them, 7,198 will perform hajj under the government management and 1,20,000 under private management, he said.

“The total cost under the hajj package-1 of the government management will be maximum Tk 397,929, while that under the hajj package-2 of the government management will be Tk 3,31,359,” he said.

The costs under the package-1 and 2 were Tk 3,81,508 and Tk 3,19,355 respectively in 2017, Shafiul Alam said.

The minimum cost for a pilgrim who will perform hajj under the private arrangement has been fixed at Tk 1,68,277 excluding the house rent in Saudi Arabia and some other costs. The hajj agencies will announce their package incorporating house rent and some other costs in the package, the cabinet secretary said.

The airfare for each pilgrim from Bangladesh has been fixed at Tk 1,38,191, which was Tk 1,24,723 in the previous year, he added.

About the increase of air fare, Religious Affairs acting Secretary Anisur Rahman said the fare has been increased following the rise of Jet fuel price, devaluation of taka against dollar and for some other reasons.

The cabinet secretary said all pilgrims will have to carry machine readable passports (MRPs) with at least six months’ validity for performing hajj this year.

A hajj agency can send a highest 300 pilgrims and minimum 150 pilgrims from Bangladesh, he said adding, an aircraft in a single flight can carry the pilgrims of three Hajj agencies.

The pilgrims under the private management will have to pay for Qurbani (animal sacrificing) with coupon from Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia.

Those who performed hajj in 2015, 2016 and 2017 or who took hajj visas but did not perform hajj finally will have to pay additional money worth 2,100 Saudi riyals to perform hajj in 2018 as per an announcement of the Saudi government, he said.

About the draft National Hajj and Umrah Policy, 2018, the cabinet secretary said every person willing to perform hajj will have to make online pre-registration which will be synchronised with the central national identity (NID) database.

Later, they will have to complete the registration process to get Pilgrim ID, he said adding that the registration will remain valid for two years.

Shafiul Alam mentioned that police verification for the hajj pilgrims will not be required as such verification was done during issuance of passports.

He said expatriate Bangladeshis can go for pre-registration using their passports instead of NIDs.

Once the registration is completed, Alam said, the registered pilgrims could not be replaced by others.

However, he said, a replacement can be made in case of death or serious ailment of any registered pilgrim. But such replacement cannot be more than 4 persons of the registered ones.

All the pilgrims will have to buy trolley bags at their own costs.