Another Firm Dupes Hajj Aspirants, Protests Erupt

Srinagar – With last year’s massive fraud by a tour company turning still murkier, protests erupted against yet another private firm on Thursday for duping a large batch of aspiring Hajj pilgrims.

Scores of prospective Hajis held angry demonstrations in central Srinagar against the Al Balagh group, saying that its owners and employees had gone absconding right on the eve of their departure for the holy journey.

Having deposited Rs 2.15 lakh each with the firm which had announced their flights on October 19 and 20, the pilgrims said that they were stunned to find its offices locked and staff missing when they reported for formalities and inquiries today.

“The company had issued a list of 24 pilgrims in local newspapers announcing our date of departure,” they said.

“But it has disappeared into thin air just a day before we were supposed to leave,” they said. “Its offices are locked and mobile phones switched off.”

“We have neither got our visas, nor other required documents,” they said.

The protestors turned their ire on the government also, accusing it of negligence in allowing unregistered tour operators to function and to loot ordinary people.

The cheated pilgrims demanded that the Al Balagh owners be arrested, their money refunded, and alternative arrangements made for their holy journey without delay.

 Protests also broke out against the Hajeej firm which had duped hundreds of pilgrims in similar fashion last year.

The victims said that they had deposed Rs 35,000 afresh with the company which had promised to take them for Hajj this year.

“There are 383 of us, and we have been left in the lurch again,” they said, adding that the superintendent of the police here had asked them to wait until October 20.

(Observer News Service)

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