Eid ul-Azha, celebrated two months and ten days after Eid ul Fitr, is known as Feast of the Sacrifice, as an animal is sacrificed in commemoration of willingness of Hazrat Ibrahim (pbh) to sacrifice his dearest son Ismail as an act of obedience to Allah, before He intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead. This festival is incorporated in the great pilgrimage to Mecca which should properly be made during this month but it is also observed all over the Muslim world at the same time. The underlying importance of this festival is the spirit of sacrifice (qurbani) in memory of Hazrat Ibrahim's great act of faith many centuries ago.
The basis for the Eid al-Azha comes from the 196th verse of second Surah, Al Baqara ( The Cow) , and the word "Eid" appears in the fifth Sura al-Mai'da (The Table Spread), of the Qur'an, meaning 'solemn festival'. The days of Eid ul Azha are the 10th of Dhul Hijjah upto the 12th of Dhul Hijjah (3 days and 2 nights) sacrifice may take place until sunset on the 13th Day. In the Indian subcontinent the festival is known as Bakr-EId because of the tradition of sacrificing the goats. It is also Qurbanir Eid as the Semitic word for "sacrifice" is the Arabic Qurban.Other languages combined the Arabic word qurb?n with local terms for "festival", as in Kurdish Cejna Qurbani, in Pashto, Kurbaneyy Akhtar, in Chinese Gú?rb?ng Jié, in Malay and Indonesian Hari Raya Korban, in Philipino Araw ng Pag-Sasakripisyo and in Turkish as Kurban Bayram.
The feast of sacrifice in effect exists around the celebration, having an enormous impact on socio-economic arena. Eid ul Azha is observed correspondingly with the performing of Hajj by financially able Muslims and the national economy has to transact a substantial amount, mostly in foreign currency on this instance.
This year one hundred ten thousands five hundred seventy six able Muslims from Bangladesh have gone to Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj. Each pilgrim is expected to spend, on average, three hundred thousand taka which entails total around 33 billion crore taka equivalent to 415 million US $. The Hajj has been a major source of foreign currency income for the Saudi economy and an important foreign exchange out lay for other economy since the earliest days when the hajj was introduced. Bangladesh economy has had to handle a substantial deposit as well as disbursement along with money exchange businesses by the banking sectors and job creation in aide to hajj performers.
Huge financial involvement and economic activities remain with the central occupation in the Eid ul Azha that is sacrificing the livestock (cow, goat and camel). According to Department of Livestock around sixty hundred thousands cows and one hundred ten thousands goats and sheep are slaughtered annually in Bangladesh, out of which sixty percent cows and fifty five percent goats and sheep are sacrificed in Eid u Azha each year.
According to Bangladesh Tanners' Association (BTA) about thirty five hundred thousands cows and fifty hundred thousands goats and sheep will the sacrificed this year and if so , total trading will involve about 105 billion taka for cow and around 8.25 billion taka for goat. Bangladesh is heavily dependent on supply of cows and goat from India. India exports about 10 million cattle to Bangladesh annually out of which around four million are dispatched during the Eid ul Azha. ( both formally and informally ) to Bangladesh and it claims that they get less price while exporting.
However Bangladesh government should earn 2 billion taka revenue ( @ 500 taka per cattle ). Again, the Eid ul Azha is the main season for producing hides and skins. Sixty per cent of export of hides and skins is made following the celebration of this festival. According to an unconfirmed report that this year only Indian businessmen have targeted a market of Tk 320 billion in hides and skins from Bangladesh during the Eid ul Azha .
The money market, which usually gets volatile during the Eid festivals, remains calm in a fairly liquid position this time ahead of Eid-ul-Azha and Durga Puja. As the market now is in a liquid position because of a decline in imports and a rise in foreign currencies in the way of loans, remittances and investments.
Commercial banks witness a heavy rush for money transaction as a large number of clients withdrew from and deposit cash in the banks only few days ahead of Eid-ul-Azha . The Bangladesh Bank had pumped a record amount of money into the banking system as clients flooded almost all the branches of banks across the country before the start of Eid vacation. Markets for spices and electronic ( refrigerators ) gadgets witness bumper sales hovering hundreds of billion taka ahead of Eid ul Azha.
Given that the majority of Muslim businesses spend a substantial amount of cash for the festival, remittances poured in Bangladesh economy, a special business spree starts for transportation sector as a large number of people travel. Media reports confirm the magnitude of financial transaction marking the celebration of Eid in an economy of one hundred fifty five million population with US $ 983 per capita GDP.
It has been a common observation that the Eid ul Azha cattle market has no direction, it is left to three S -the syndicated traders, smugglers and snatchers. It is reported that syndicated traders have targeted a market of Tk 320 billion from Bangladesh during the Eid ul Azha. They will earn this amount of money by exporting and at the same time importing raw hides at lower prices through unofficial channel. Thereby Bangladesh economy will lose huge revenue and its own prospect of exporting leather and leather products abroad.
It is also reported that smugglers are selling cattle on credit. As against smuggling of cow, they are receiving raw hide , fuel oil, edible oil, gold, silver, cigarettes, jute, hides and bones. The BGB and local police are reported to be bribed for this operation. Although the government provides credit facilities to tanneries, no credit is given to hide merchants who face difficulties to run business. Ultimately the businessmen have to depend on smugglers.
Local traders have reportedly reached an understanding with Indian smugglers for unofficially sending hides to India. Price of Indian cattle will be paid in terms of hides and skins. Money is being advanced for procurement of hides and skins during the Eid-ul-Azha. The smugglers have reportedly managed the border guards, police and customs officials. The government appears to have taken measures to prevent smuggling of hides.
However, if stringent and foolproof measures are not taken, the pronouncement may turn into a farce. Salt is an important ingredient for preserving the raw hide. There may be crisis of salt this season. The government has been urged to allow duty-free import of 40,000 tons of salt in the interest of overcoming any ploy salt traders' syndicate might resort to in hiking price.
The management of cattle as well as hide and skin trading must be reckoned to the desired direction. The economy should have been fairly benefited from this important sector if a far-sighted plan is in place to handle border trade, have checked corruption, have seized the syndications. Although the government provides credit facilities to tanneries, no credit is given to hide merchants who face difficulties to run business. Ultimately the businessmen have to depend on smugglers who advance money for procurement of hides and skins.
The performance of Hajj and the sacrifice of cattle during Eid celebration, in essence, generate money supply, expansionary in nature, promote trade and business, create job , and at large bring boom for the economy. But, fact remains, competent macro management of such supply side economy could be crucial for the sustainable development. The cost-effectiveness of Hajj management could be more in favour of the economy if own infrastructural facilities were there to commute and accommodate major portion of pilgrims (if not all) in an effective and efficient manner.
The writer is a former Secretary and former Chairman, National Board of Revenue.
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