India’s leading Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), Balmer Lawrie, responsible for ticketing during the South Asian Games, has been caught on the wrong foot.
It has been learned that the company had booked the flight tickets for a four-member handball delegation from Pakistan on a route which would have left them flustered to say the least, not to mention the higher cost incurred by the Games organising committee on account of the circuitous route.
Post HT’s enquiry on why the tickets were not booked on a direct flight, but instead via Doha to Kolkata and then Guwahati, the company rebooked the tickets to suit the delegates.
The matter came to light when the Handball Federation of India (HFI) blamed Balmer Lawrie for “booking tickets at a high price” for participants competing in the Games, scheduled to commence in Guwahati on Friday.
Four officials from Pakistan, including the secretary-general of the Asian Handball Federation, Muhammad Shafiq, were booked on a flight to Doha from Lahore, then to Kolkata and finally to Guwahati. The HFI officials felt the delegation could have been spared the trouble and expenses reduced had a shorter itinerary been planned.
Shafiq’s original ticket --- a copy of which is with HT --- shows he was to begin his journey on February 7 at 3:25 am from Lahore and reach Doha at 5:30 am the same day. He would have then begun his journey from Doha at 6:45 pm and arrived at Kolkata’s Subhash Chandra Bose airport by a Hamad International flight before proceeding to Guwahati on February 8 at 4:30 am.
Shafiq would have taken a similar route back to Lahore on February 16. “It was ridiculous as he (Shafiq) wouldn’t have been able to attend the closing ceremony because of this (itinerary),” HFI secretary-general, Anandeshwar Pandey, told HT.
“I don’t know why Balmer Lawrie makes such arrangements. But one thing is for sure that the journey would have been hectic and tiring,” said Pandey, who is also the joint secretary of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
He claimed that Shafiq’s ticket via Doha was for around R1 lakh, while a direct flight would cost R70,000-75,000. “If it’s happening, it’s wastage of government money as the organising committee would be reimbursing the amount to the concerned ticketing agency,” he said.
Pandey claimed that he had informed the ticketing agency about the arrival and departure of the individuals almost a week ago. “I don’t know how many more tickets the agency has booked so far and how much money they have charged the government as there would be plenty of travellers coming for the Games,” he said.
When contacted Balmer Lawrie vice-president (marketing and coordination), Vijay Kumar Batra, said that the concerned person would respond to the query soon, but no one contacted HT. In the meantime, the HFI confirmed that soon after the enquiries were made, the agency assured them of “rectifying the mistake” and promised “to send fresh tickets by Wednesday evening”.
“It was the enquiry by HT that forced the company to make amends. Still, instead of accepting their mistake, they shifted the blame on the organising committee,” said Pandey.