In the team of 171 attendants, religious affairs minister Matior Rahman has included from his constituency, Mymensingh, as many as 35 persons who are not even remotely connected to this service.
The minister himself said to Prothom Alo, “Whoever applied from Mymensingh to join the team, we are bringing them.”
“Some others are being taken as requests in this regard came from different departments. Many are known [to us],” he said about inclusion of drivers in the team of attendants.
Conspicuously, members of the team range from class-I and class-II officers to agriculturists and pharmacists, and from drivers to carpenters.
According to terms of service, the attendants will be required to assist the pilgrims as and when required, clean garbage and help them accomplish daily chores. “But most of these people will in no way do it,” said an official of the ministry seeking anonymity.
The team includes 25 drivers of members of the cabinet, and from different ministries, and government offices. There are security guards, sweepers, personal assistants, office assistants, pump operators and typists.
Class-I and class-II officials who are named in the team include the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute’s plant breeding department’s scientific officer AKM Salauddin, the public administration ministry’s assistant secretary Azizur Rahman Talukder, the land record and survey department’s grainer Kamruddin, the Bangladesh Agricultural University’s sports training centre’s assistant director M Bajlul Alam and the finance ministry’s assistant secretary Ruhul Amin Mallik.
During their stay in Saudi Arabia, each member of the team will be entitled to an aggregate amount between Tk 800,000 and 1,000,000, inclusive of plane fare, travel allowance and daily allowance, depending on their positions.
An official of the ministry told Prothom Alo, “As a matter of custom, dedicated office assistants and attendants from the religious affairs and health ministries are supposed to go in Saudi Arabia.”
The official regretted that favouritism often played a big part in selecting attendants and in most cases they did not serve the pilgrims. “That’s why there are complaints that the attendants did not even meet the pilgrims there,” the official added.
The religious affairs ministry has recently published the names of the medical team members comprising 114 physicians, 97 nurses and brothers, 43 pharmacists and 12 technicians for treating the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. The 171-member team of attendants has been formed to assist them.
The religious affairs and health ministries and Islamic Foundation are supposed to jointly prepare the list of attendants. But there are allegations that the list was prepared bypassing the health ministry proposal.
Contacted, health and family welfare minister Mohammad Nasim told Prothom Alo, “Every year we send names of attendants to the religious affairs ministry but they [attendants] get appointment through irregularities.”
Nasim further said everyone understands the reason for appointment of the persons who do not have experience in such services.
When asked, religious affairs secretary Abdul Jalil said the list has been prepared following proposals from the prime minister’s office, several ministers and important personalities. “The ministry itself hasn’t included any name from outside of the proposals.”
About inclusion of scientific officers or class-I and class-II officials, the secretary said all kinds of professionals are required in such a team.
In response to a question, what the drivers would do, Abdul Jalil said the minister has given approval to their inclusion in the list.
*This piece, originally published in the Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza.