CHEATING with Hajj pilgrims reached new dimensions in the recent past with human trafficking to Saudi Arabia conducted under the guise of performing the holy Hajj. The matter was reported in a national English daily on Monday which said some unscrupulous Hajj agencies are engaged in human trafficking and many of them are being investigated and stand to lose their license as a recruitment agent. The report said, about 600 Hajj agencies are facing probes this year due to alleged involvement in various irregularities, including human trafficking. We are appalled by the disclosure and share the concerns of the Saudi government to stop the misuse of the pilgrim facility by criminal businessmen. The parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Religious Affairs has recommended that the government should keep all Hajj agencies under strict monitoring to prevent trafficking for economic purposes like Hajj travels of the Rohingyas to Saudi Arabia. It has also asked the government to file cases against those agencies which may have connections with human trafficking. President of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) however claimed that the number of Hajj agencies involved in irregularities are around 148 while the total number of Hajj agencies stands at over 1150. But whatever be the number, the ground reality is that some Hajj agencies are indulging in the misuse of their permit and they must be screened out. In fact, the Saudi government summoned 46 Hajj agencies last year for their alleged involvement in irregularities at a time when around 300 pilgrims did not return home after the Hajj season. The Hajj will be celebrated in early October this year and the Cabinet has approved the draft National Hajj and Umrah Policy to permit 101,758 Bangladeshi nationals to perform Hajj this year. Of them around 10,000 pilgrims will visit Saudi Arabia under the government arrangement while the remaining persons will use private facilities. The total cost for a pilgrim this year may stand at Tk 3,54,316 for package one while it will be Tk 2,95,776 for package two. We hold the view that all Hajj agencies must be focused on avoiding human sufferings. But the question remains as to whether the private Hajj agencies will take more care for pilgrims when their profit motives always remain foremost in their minds. We come across many tragic stories about pilgrims’ sufferings and ask the government to take steps to strictly monitor errant agencies to make sure of the comforts of the pilgrims while additionally watching out for possible human trafficking. We hold the view that the Hajj programme must be entirely treated as a religious programme and dishonest recruitment agents must not be allowed to misuse it for business purposes. We also suggest that the government take up a public awareness campaign in the urban and rural countryside to alert people to keep away from dishonest agents. Our sincere expectation is that the Saudi government should extend all possible support to make the pilgrims’ journey comfortable while the Bangladesh management should ensure that nobody misuses it.