Travel agent dupes south Mumbai travellers of Rs 3.08 lakh
Travel agent, who was paid for the air tickets to Ladakh, has been absconding ever since; travel company refuses to take the blame
A holiday to the picturesque Leh Ladakh has remained a dream for three South Mumbai families despite having planned the vacation and made all payments well in advance. The families claimed that they have still not received their air tickets for the tour that is to begin on May 24. A complaint was registered with the Dadar police on May 18 with regard to the alleged fraud.
Naresh Vasant, one of the three complainants, stated, "A booking was made for 11 people, from May 24 to May 31, on February 23, consisting of tour cost of Rs 32,000 per person and another Rs 28,000 per person towards the flight cost, with Ankit Bahuva, sales staff of M/s Gems Tours and Travels located at Naman Midtown, Elphinstone."
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An advance tour booking amount of Rs 10,000 per person (Rs 1.10 lakh in total) for the trip was made to the travel company. Payment of Rs 3.08 lakh (toward air tickets) had to be made next.
"I had asked the sales official to collect the money from my office in Chira Bazar," Vasant stated in his complaint, but the next day, "I got a call from Bahuva to say that the payment could be done to his colleague's father who owns a shop in Chira Bazar, which I did but we haven't yet received any tickets," he told mid-day. Bahuva was to provide them the receipt of this payment later.
Bahuva, who has been out of Mumbai on a tour to Darjeeling, said that the agent who was supposed "to give us the tickets was absconding and suggested registering a complaint."
"Why would I lodge a police complaint against a person I have never met or dealt with. We had met Ankit and had done our bookings through him," Vasant wondered. Nita Shah, another complainant, added, "They are not willing to take responsibility or even come out of their cabins to talk to us. This has led to a lot of loss of time and extreme mental harassment for us. Not to mention the ill-treatment they are giving us when we visit their office, along with the financial pressure to pay the ticket amount again failing which they will not give us a refund."
Vasant, who had availed the tour services of M/s Gems Tours and Travels 23 years ago, had a good experience then. "We have nothing personal against the tour company but they are expecting us to pay for the air ticket again which is unfair. We have already paid for the air travel and there is no question of we bearing the expenses again."
'No reason to suspect agent'
Bahuva claimed that he was "only trying to help the clients in getting air tickets at a cheaper rate." Vineet Jain (the agent who is absconding) was known to Bahuva's colleague "and we had no reason to suspect him as he had promptly confirmed receiving money for air tickets and even refunded payment of Rs 22,000 over the cancellation (after deductions) of one of the 11 passengers."
"We tried calling him and even visited his address. Other than the five tickets to Leh, he has not paid any money to the Santacruz-based air ticketing agency. If at all the travellers want to complain, they should complain against Vineet and not me," Bahuva said.
Jyotin Doshi, founder chairman of M/s Gems Tours and Travels said, "We are operating for the past 36 years and have never come across such a problem before. We had done the land package booking for the clients and had nothing to do with their air travel booking, which was done completely by a third person. The only mistake is that our staff went out of his way to suggest an agent's name. One of our staff who had recommended the agent was even willing to bear 50 per cent of the clients' loss but they demanded the entire refund which is unfair."
Criminal case or not
The Dadar Police said that the complainant and the travel agency representatives would be questioned "before ascertaining if there is ground for a criminal case." "A police probe is a must in this case to ascertain the genuineness of the complaint and to fix responsibilities. If no criminal case is found, the complainants can still move the consumer court and demand damages," criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari said.
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