Travel agents accuse helicopter operators of flouting norms

Accusing helicopter operators, providing their services to Amarnath pilgrims, of corruption, Travel Agents from both Jammu and Kashmir divisions on Wednesday alleged that these operators are appointing general sales agents for selling the tickets in lieu of huge kickbacks, thus “cheating pilgrims”.
In a joint press conference organized by travel agents associations of both divisions- Travel Agents of Jammu, Tourists Trade Interest Guild, PLTOF, Association of Jammu Travel Agents accused the helicopter operators especially UT AIR Helicopter of throwing the eligibility criteria to wind in selecting ticketing agents.
President, Travel Agents of Jammu, Jitender Kaul said that the helicopter operators appointed by the Amarnath Shrine Board have appointed “gas agents and tea sellers as their GSAs, while ignoring the genuine travel agents who have the experience “.
“These helicopters companies are acting as stooges of two blue-eyed travel agents who few years back were railway ticketing agents, but now due to their close proximity with officials of Shrine Board are calling shots in appointing GSAs and taking huge bribes for appointing ticketing agents,” said Koul.
As per norms, helicopter operators have to appoint GSAs four each from Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that UT Air helicopters which has been appointed as helicopter operator for pilgrims to Amarnath yatra has appointed GSAs on the recommendation of two blue eyed travel agents.
“Our claims have been proved by the Court as it has already stayed the online sale of tickets by the GSAs appointed by the company without fixing any criteria,” he added.
General Secretary, Association of Jammu Travel Agents, Rajesh Chandan said the Shrine Board should fix some criteria for ticket selling agents and asked for the intervention of the Governor, who is also chairman of the shrine board.
Chairman, TTIG, Muhammad Akram Siah alleged the UT Air helicopters of cheating pilgrims and urged Governor NN Vohra to initiate action against those indulging in corrupt practices by choosing inexperience General Selling Agents in lieu of kickbacks.
Siah alleged that helicopter operators in connivance with some Jammu-based travel agents who act as touts of these companies, take huge kickbacks from inexperienced travel agents in lieu of giving them GSAs – by virtue of which they can sell helicopter tickets to pilgrims who want to pay obeisance at the holy cave.
Vice Chairman, TTIG, Bashir Ahmad Karnai said “ Not only this, later these GSAs sell the tickets which cost about Rs 3500 at exorbitant rates ranging from Rs 7000 to Rs 10000, thus cheating pilgrims while the authorities act as mute spectators,” he said adding that “ he himself was asked to pay kickbacks for getting GSA.”
They urged the Governor to conduct enquiry into these allegations and take action against the officials, touts involved in cheating the pilgrims. The guild has appealed Shrine Board to make the sale of tickets online in order to avoid cheating of pilgrims.
A Jammu –based travel agent, Sandip Koul on whose appeal the court has stayed the selling of tickets by GSAs of UT Air Helicopter was also present on the occasion.

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