J-K Hajj Scandal : Inquiry Commission Demands Strict Rules26 November 2011
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government is mulling to lay down strict rules for tour companies offering services of Umrah, pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, and Haj, mandatory annual pilgrimage for Muslims, in the state following the biggest ever multi-crore scam to hit more than 450 aspiring Hajis this year. 'There should a proper mechanism available with the government to check and monitor the functioning of these tour operators. Only those travel agencies registered with Hajj Committee of India or are accredited with Ministry of External Affairs Government of India should be allowed to function,' said additional deputy commissioner, Srinagar, Muhammed Akbar Ganai in his enquiry report on Saturday. Ganai was appointed by the government to investigate the Hajeej India Pvt. Ltd scandal, in which around 500 Hajj aspirants were duped by the company. Despite submitting their passports and paying around Rs 9 crore for annual pilgrimage, the company failed to take them to Saudi Arabia after failing to procure visas for the same in October this year. 'We are living with a taboo now. I still have my bags packed. We had collected money despite economic hardships at home. My passport is still missing. This was worst ever cheating episode concerning people's faith. We appeal to the government to help us get our money and passport back,' said a duped Hajj aspirant, who refused to be named. Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon's office confirmed that all 500 passports have been recovered in raids by the police. 'Passports are in possession of the sub-division police officer Khanyar and the passports are being released to the passport holders in accordance with the law,' said Amir Ali, spokesman of the divisional commissioner's office. The enquiry officer in his recommendations has asked the government to auction immoveable property of the company owner Arsalan Wahid Gilkar, son of Abdul Wahid Gilkar. The enquiry committee has identified a hotel at Ajmeer, a flat at Ghaziabad and house at Harwan to be confiscated. Suggesting streamlining of such tour operators, Ganai in his report said that the Director tourism should audit all such tour operators and travel agencies involved in this trade. 'No tour operator shall be allowed to do business regarding Hajj and Umrah unless it has obtained non objection certificate from the J&K.