UT records 50 % increase compared to last year; association plays key role to increase number of airlines for pilgrims, demands immigration point at Sgr Airport, no cheating incident reported in last 4 years, chaos over package as people look for low rate packages: J&KAHUC
At least 36000 from Jammu & Kashmir performed Umrah since September 2022 till this Ramadan, indicating 50 per cent increase of pilgrims compared to last year in the Union Territory, J&K Association of Haj & Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) said on Saturday.
General Secretary of the association, Muhammad Younis Bhat while talking exclusively to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), said that the tour operations have suffered a loss of Rs 5-6 lakh each this Ramadan as they were expecting a huge flow of pilgrims for Umrah in this holy month.
“However, the rush of pilgrims remained less, especially due to the March session for students announced by the government. The tour operators had already booked the blocks of airlines in advance, but as the rush was not up to the expectations, the bookings had to be cancelled and thus lead to the losses of Rs 5-6 lakh each to the tour operators,” he said.
He added that at least 36,000 people from across J&K performed Umrah since September 2022 till this Ramadan while 34000 among them are from Kashmir division, adding that the number of pilgrims has increased nearly 50 per cent compared to last year.
The General Secretary further stated that earlier there was only one airline, Air India, available for the pilgrims, but the association played a key role in ensuring an increase in the number of airlines and now three airlines including Air India, Indigo and Spicejet are available for the pilgrims.
During the winters, the tour operators were facing losses, but this year, there has been rescheduling of the flight operations as the flights are connected unlike previous years, he said, adding that the Indigo earned highest amongst the three.
However, he appealed to the airlines to drop the pilgrims at Terminal 3 where the people from J&K get facilities.
Besides, the association also demanded immigration point at Srinagar international airport, saying that the process should be completed for pilgrims at Srinagar airport.
Reacting to the chaos over package for Umrah, he said that the main reason behind such an issue is the lack of coordination between the people and the tour operators, adding that the people have been demanding the cheapest package, thus the tour operators couldn’t manage things with just a meagre amount. “There are three types of packages with tour operators made available at the association level, but people have been seeking cheapest packages, which becomes very difficult for a tour operator to manage the things and ensure proper arrangements for the pilgrim. The pilgrim should check each and everything while fixing the package and the tour operator too should make the things clear to the pilgrim so that there is no confusion among them,” he said.
He further said that three packages are available, which include for 15 days, 21-22 days and one month, adding that most of the pilgrims opt for 21-22 days package.
About the upcoming Haj, the General Secretary of JKAHUC, said that the pilgrims must check the past history of the tour operators before fixing the package. He also said that there would be no increase in the amount payable for Hajj this year and the lowest package for a pilgrim will be Rs 6,50,000 like last year.
Asked about the video of Hajis that went viral after they faced issues in Saudi, he said that there was no fault of the tour operators here, but it was because of the hotel that they faced hardships.
Moreover, he said that the pilgrims going for Umrah should prepare themselves for a 5-6 day stay at Madina as the erstwhile trend of staying for 40 prayers will come to an end as the rates have increased manifold.
The General Secretary further appealed people not to go after the low package and ensure proper check of facilities being provided to him/her while discussing the package.
“The pilgrims should be ready to accept the orders being issued by Saudi Arabia. The norms in Saudi are to be followed and people should be aware about it. They should be aware about economic class and deluxe class packages,” he said and appealed to the tour operators to make things clear to the Hajis and ensure proper signature of the pilgrims while divulging the details.
Pilgrims are advised to attend orientation programmes to get aware about the facts, he said, adding that the people from Kashmir staying in Saudi Arabia should not add fuel to any situation, especially when there is any misunderstanding or any issue is taking place with the pilgrims.
He further said that the association has ensured accountability. “The cheating issues have taken place in the past, but we have been ensuring accountability. If there is any such complaint, the matter is being investigated thoroughly. There is no such case in the past three-four years, because the association has been playing key role and the people should meet us in case of any such complaint,” he said—(KNO)