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Rogue or victim of circumstances?

india Updated: Jan 13, 2007 01:41 IST

THE POLICE hardly ever express sympathy for an accused. But in case of Nizami Tours and Travels director Tajuddin, who has been accused of cheating hundreds of people in the name of making arrangements for Haj travel, the police officials say that the accused is a victim of circumstances.

Tajuddin was arrested in Ahmedabad on Thursday night and brought to Indore on Friday morning. He along with his manager Anees Khan, who had been arrested a couple of days back, have been booked under Section 406 and 420 of IPC at the Tukoganj police station.

Case Details
CSP Manoj Ray said the case was registered against Tajuddin and Anees following complaints by some Haj pilgrims that the two had taken around Rs 75,000 from each one of them and had promised to make arrangements for Haj pilgrimage. He had taken money from around 500 persons from Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur and Itarsi among other places. However, neither did the travel agency make any arrangements for them, nor did they return the money. Subsequently, both Tajuddin and Anees closed their office at Sheeba Complex and fled the City.

Inside Story
There is more to the story than meets the eye. Tajuddin has been running the travel agency since 2002 and has been sending persons from Indore and other places to Mecca and Medina for Haj and also during Ramzan. This year too he had started making arrangements for Haj travelers since October. He had taken money from Haj travelers and had contacted four other tour operators—Al Madina Tour, Jabalpur, Fiza Tour, Bhopal, Izhar Bhai of Dhanpuri, Shahdol and Nazir Bhai of Itarsi to make bookings for Haj travelers. In all, he had received 290 bookings and money (around Rs 66 lakh) through these travel agentsagencies.

Going on Haj pilgrimage is a bit complicated affair. Every country has its quota, which is decided by the Saudi government. This year, India was given a quota of 1.45 lakh persons. Of them 1 lakh persons go through the Haj committee (the travel expense is subsidised) and the remaining 45,000 are decided by All-India Haj Umra Tour Association, Andheri, Mumbai, where pilgrims have to pay the entire amount.

The Association then allots quotas to various travel agencies. Tajuddin had got his travel agency registered for Rs 15,000 with the Association. Apart from this, Tazuddin had also contacted two other travel agencies – Aslam Tours, Akola and Al Hizra, Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai, and these two agencies had promised that from their quota they would give 100 to 200 seats to Tajuddin agency. Of course, Tajuddin had to pay a premium for getting their quota.

Reassured by these promises, Tajuddin booked hotels in Saudi Arabia and paid 50 per cent amount in advance (around Rs18 lakh) and paid Rs 16 lakh to Jet Airways for open tickets. Unfortunately, at the last moment, Al Hizra refused to give the promised quota (they perhaps sold it to a higher bidder) and Umra Tour Association also gave a reduced quota. Thus Tajuddin found himself in a fix.

As he did not get the quota, he could not get the visa. Since he had already spent the money on booking tickets and hotels etc, he did not have any money to return. And as pressure mounted from irate pilgrims, he closed shop and ran away, fearing he would be lynched.

Some Money Returned
Police sources said that Tajuddin has returned most of the money he had taken from those outside Indore. In Indore, he has returned around Rs 10 lakh from the Rs 44 lakh he had collected. Overall, he has to return around Rs 35 lakh to the pilgrims.

Though he has received refund from the Jet Airways, he is unlikely to get any money from the hotel bookings in Saudi Arabia. Rather the hotels there have registered a case against his partner in Saudi Arabia for failing to pay the remaining 50 per cent of the room rent.