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Hajj free of cost

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THE government programme of sending 318 people ranging from lawmakers to senior government officials and party men at a cost of Tk 10.15 crore from the government exchequer has raised eyebrow at many quarters. As we know Hajj is mandatory for people having physical ability and financial resources to pay the expenses but the way the government is turning the religious event in into a political fanfare is coming under severe criticism from almost every quarter including religious scholars. Many believe the programme aims at strengthening government popularity at a time when the next parliamentary election is closer to the door.

We want to say we are opposed to any action, which will degrade the religious sanctity of Hajj performed by devoted Muslims with sense of dedication. The government list has however selected people for their personal and political loyalty to the government and ministers. The Religious Affairs Minister has categorized all 318 persons in his list as 'Pious Muslims' but he must particularly know that performing Hajj by wealthy people or office staff and party workers with public money is unethical and clearly not acceptable. People who pay tax to the government to run the state have not paid tax for its misuse. He is clearly abusing power and misusing Hajj for political purpose.  

It calls for bigger protest. Question arises as to why the government should send solvent people like MPs and senior government officials at the expense of the state. The list also includes scores of people like drivers, carpenters, gunmen and orderlies for whom Hajj is not mandatory. The government moves will provide them the opportunity for free of cost journey to Mecca and other religious places but its justification remain largely unanswered. Government leaders and bureaucrats are living lavish life and regularly making expensive tours abroad.  Hajj will be new outlets now; which was never abused like this before.  

The inclusion of 10 Awami League leaders and three lawmakers in the list made many to wonder if they are so poor not to be able to pay for their Hajj. The list also includes 15 officials and staffers of Bangabhaban and at least 24 from Prime Minister's Office and her office in Parliament. One also can't understand why priority was given to persons from special districts. A staggering 79 people, including Religious Affairs Minister Motiur Rahman's relatives, personal staffers and close aides come from his present and former constituency in Mymensingh. The Minister has also nominated 40 government staffers, officials and aides of his constituency in the Hajj medical team, although they are different people and not capable to help the sick.

Hajj mismanagement and cancellation of flights capture headlines on daily basis but the new disclosure shows a total chaos. We ask the government to make the journey for the pilgrims' safe.   

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