Saturday, 1 April, 2023

High-cost packages irk Hajj pilgrims

Registration begins

High-cost packages irk Hajj pilgrims

The cost of performing the Hajj has jumped significantly this year, leaving many aspiring pilgrims in a difficult situation.

The minimum cost for Hajj under private management has been fixed at Tk 672,618 per person, excluding Qurbani charges, which is nearly double the minimum price offered in 2020.

This increase has caused concern among those who had planned to make the journey, as they struggle to find a way to afford it.

The registration for this year's Hajj pilgrimage began on Wednesday and will continue until February 23.

Retired primary school teacher Shamsul Haque from Kishoreganj’s Katiadi was hoping to perform the holy Hajj in 2020 along with his wife. During that time, the normal Hajj package under private management was priced at Tk 361,800 per person. However, he was unable to go due to the coronavirus pandemic and the age limit restriction for those over 65 years of age.

Now, with the improvement of the coronavirus situation and the lifting of the age limit by the Saudi government, Shamsul Haque has found that the minimum price for the Hajj pilgrimage under private management has doubled.

"I knew that the price of Hajj packages increases every year, but I did not expect it to rise this much. Now I may have to sell off some of my farmland in order to go to Hajj without leaving my wife behind," he said.

The 2023 edition of the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is scheduled to take place on June 28, subject to moon sighting. The government has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia allowing 127,198 people from Bangladesh to perform the Hajj this year, with 15,000 going under government management and 112,198 under private management.

The minimum price for the privately-run Hajj package last year was Tk 522,744 per person, while this year it has been fixed at Tk 672,618 per person, an increase of Tk 150,618. Under government management, the cost of the Hajj has also increased, with only one package offered at a cost of Tk 683,018,              compared to the two packages offered last year at Tk 527,340 and Tk 462,149.

Md Matiul Islam, Additional Secretary (Hajj) of the religious affairs ministry, said the Hajj package had been determined after discussions with all stakeholders to keep costs as low as possible.

The increased cost of the Hajj package is due to several factors, including an increase in airfare to Tk 197,797 from Tk 140,000 last year and a rise in rent for places to stay in Mecca and Medina. Services charges for Moallems, or guides for the pilgrims, have also increased, along with the cost of food, drinking water, visa fees, and Hajj guides. Additionally, the devaluation of the Bangladeshi taka against the Saudi currency has added an extra cost of Tk 62,484 for the government.

When asked about reducing the Hajj package price, the President of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), Shahadat Hossain Taslim, suggested that pressure could be put on the airlines carrying the pilgrims to reduce airfare, as a round trip flight ticket on the Dhaka-Jeddah-Dhaka route is typically priced between Tk 100,000 to Tk 110,000, much less than the airfare of the Hajj package.