SRINAGAR – The air ticket counters established by the divisional administration at the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) here following internet blockade in the Kashmir Valley are overcharging customers with authorities acting as mute spectators.
Customers allege that every air ticket is surcharged by 1000-to 2,000 rupees by the agents from the gullible customers as they have no way to cross check the prices.
Government established seven ticket counters at TRC on August 27 this year after internet blockade made it impossible for people to buy air tickets for travel outside of Kashmir. Tickets were available only at airline counters at the Srinagar airport after August 5 when lockdown was announced but passengers without valid tickets were not allowed inside the airport by the security personnel guarding the facility. In Srinagar only passengers holding valid air tickets are allowed beyond outer gates of the airport for security reasons.
Divisional authorities later tried to persuade airlines operating in and out of Srinagar to open their booking counters at TRC which they refused citing logistical issues, even after an internet lease line was established there. Later Tourism Department was given this task which in turn allotted counters to seven major private tour operators there.
However left out tour agents later protested against the decision forcing authorities to add others on weekly basis through the draw of lots.
Deputy Director Enforcement,Tourism was given the task to oversee the operation of the booking counters, sources said.
These sources said, the air tickets are booked online by these agents and they are supposed to sell the tickets on actual cost adding only service charge of Rs 200 to 500 maximum per ticket. Sources said, Deputy Director Enforcement has nominated his P.A in his place to deal with the agents who are accused of selling tickets at exorbitant prices. An air ticket of Spice Jet from Delhi to Srinagar bearing PNR number J7C3JF dated 02.09.2019 was sold to a customer at Rs 7,460 whereas the actual cost of same ticket (online) was found to be Rs 5,460.
“There is a connivance of these travel agents with the officers of tourism department”, alleged one irritated customer Ghulam Nabi Dagga. Initially in the month of August and September, on an average around 500 to 600 air tickets were sold to the general public per day from TRC counters by these travel agents, sources said. Kashmir Observer is in the possession of a copy of a ledger showing average 100 to 130 tickets booked per day against each agent’s name.
Surcharge is levied as per sector. For example on Jammu sector it ranges from Rs 800-to Rs 1000 while on Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore sectors it ranges from Rs 1000 to Rs 2000. If each ticket is overcharged by say Rs 1000, then the amount earned by an agent per day against 100 tickets becomes Rs one lac.
There are even reports of secret auction of counters against hefty sums.
No wonder each counter is secretly auctioned for Rs 70,000 – 80, 000 per week as the reports suggest. In the third week of August one agent auctioned his counter for Rs 1,20,000, sources revealed.
Sources accuse tourism department officials of being hand in glove with the agents. “I paid Rs 50,000 for the counter and over and above have to pay to officials of tourism department, including tourist police, claimed one agent with a request of anonymity. “Where from I will generate this amount except by charging extra from my customers”, he said.
When contacted Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar Ahmed Wani, told Kashmir Observer that media is creating mountain out of a mole hill. He dismissed reports of fleecingof passengers at his premises saying he hasn’t received any complaints in this regard so far.