Another tour operator dupes aspiring Hajis of crores
A year after 500 Haj aspirants were duped by a private travel company, over 126 persons aspiring for the holy pilgrimage are left in a lurch after another private tour operator this year closed office 'swindling over Rs 3 crore'.punjab Updated: Oct 19, 2012 19:15 IST
A year after 500 Haj aspirants were duped by a private travel company, over 126 persons aspiring for the holy pilgrimage are left in a lurch after another private tour operator this year closed office 'swindling over Rs 3 crore'.
The second instance of fraud by travel companies operating in the Muslim dominated Kashmir valley has raised questions over the functioning of the administration with people accusing the officials of insensitivity and indolence.
Mehjoor Ahmad Khan, the owner of the 'fraud' company, Al-Balagh Tour and Travels, has been absconding since Wednesday after failing to provide visas to the aspirants despite receiving money and documents, a year in advance.
"As the days for Haj are near, we went to the operator in Srinagar on Wednesday but to our surprise, the office was closed. The person who took money and passports from us is nowhere to be seen," said Mohammad Sultan, an aggrieved aspirant.
The aspiring pilgrims staged a protest demonstration here on Thursday against the travel company, castigating government for its failure to check such fraud tour operators.
The victims said they had deposited around Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for the pilgrimage. "The operator last month told us to get vaccinated and get prepared for the journey as our visas are ready and coming within days. It is too painful to express what we have been going through now," said an elderly from Pulwama.
"The society will say that we are a rejected lot even before Allah and who knows whether we live for the next year or not," he said.
This is the second such incident that has happened in the Valley since last year. More than 500 people were duped by Hajeej India Hospitality in 2011 after its owner, Fabiyan Wahid Gilkar, swindled a staggering Rs 10 crore. Gilkar was arrested after hectic police efforts. He was later granted interim bail as he agreed to deposit an amount of Rs 2 crore in the account of sessions court and promised to take aspirants to Haj this year. But this year he again "duped" them.
"The owner of the company had taken the money from us in 2011 before the scandal came to fore. After being arrested he assured us in court that he will take us for the journey this year. We were scheduled to leave on October 20 but so far we have not received the visas," said Ghulam Rasool Dar, a duped aspirant.
People are questioning the role of government machinery as the tour operators have been openly operating in the valley without any checks.
Divisional administration stated that they had made the names of authentic and authorised Haj-operators public several times, but people are not convinced.
"These private companies have been issuing advertisements in local newspapers. If they are not authorised, then why government remains silent even after ads appear? Why doesn't administration summon their owners? Why are they putting the onus on common people," said Nisar Ahmad, a Kashmir university employee who was duped by Hajeej last year.
Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Asghar Samoon did not take calls from HT.
However, Srinagar deputy commissioner Baseer Khan repeated the stand of government that they have made public the names of authentic travel operators. When asked why government remains silent after ads in newspapers by fraud companies, he refused to answer. "I am busy right now," he said and dropped the phone.