Aqib Ul Ahad Wani
This refers to the news regarding the unconditional hike of air fares by the airlines. This is a real injustice with the customers as the maximum fare from Srinagar to Jammu is Rs2500 & vice-versa, likewise maximum fare from Srinagar to Delhi is Rs 3500 & vice-versa but if we see today’s fare to these routes is touching skies about Rs.10000-34000. why this injustice is only in the state of J&K. How can a common man who is urgency of any nature can travel when the fares are so high. Why authorities are not taking any action regarding the same. They are only discussing about the issue but nothing happens at the ground level. The tickets to Dubai from delhi are cheaper as compared to the fares from Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa. So the ministry concerned with the same should take proper action against the same. Government itself says that there are mafias in this system who are responsible for increased fare of airlines. It is the duty of the authorities to find them and punish them according to the law. Taking advantage of Srinagar-Jammu highway closure due to inclement weather, shopkeepers and vendors selling essential commodities have hiked prices of vegetables and meat across Kashmir. As the only road link connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world remained closed, traders were seen defying government notified rate list of essentials and selling goods much dearer than the prescribed prices. Most of the shops don’t show the rate-list and sell essential items at their own rates. Market checking squad is nowhere to check the illegal profiteering. “Shopkeepers have hiked the rates of almost all essential commodities and vegetables and fruits ever since the highway has been closed,” he added. He said the hoteliers have also doubled the rates of hotel rooms creating more problems to the passengers.
It is usually the price of petroleum products that determines the cost of air tickets. But in Kashmir the rise and fall of air tickets is subject to weather conditions. Airline companies are making the most of the ongoing bad weather condition in Kashmir by charging exorbitant airfare three to four times more than the actual prices from the flyers. There are no fixed airfares. Fares are driven by demand. With Jammu-Srinagar highway remaining blocked for traffic due to landslides at several places, the demon of arbitrary fares is back to haunt and fleece the stranded people in Jammu. It is highly shameful on the part of airline operators that they misuse the weather conditions in Kashmir to their advantage without caring about the degree of burden and miseries it brings to the local residents.
In normal days, the air fare between Jammu and Srinagar rolls between Rs.2600 and Rs.3200. But it goes up four to six times once the Jammu-Srinagar highway gets blocked due to bad weather. On Friday when the highway got closed due to landslides on many parts of the only road link, the air line operators increased the air ticket (from Jammu to Srinagar) to Rs.10000 to 15000. It is cheaper to travel to some foreign countries than from Jammu to Srinagar. A look out at international fares reveals that traveling from Delhi to Dubai is cheaper by almost 8000 than traveling from Srinagar to Jammu. If one wants to travel from Srinagar to Jammu on Tuesday, he would have to pay Rs.14, 285 whereas the ticket for Delhi to Dubai on the same day is just Rs.6311. The air tickets to other Asian countries is even less. Thousands of people are presently stranded in Jammu and Srinagar as the highway remains close due to landslides. They cannot dream of traveling by air as the airline operators have increased air tickets to a swooping high. The airline companies appear to be accountable no none. They are law unto themselves. Every time there is a natural disaster or other unforeseen event, airfares seem to shoot up. It can be said with great convenience that the airlines are like vultures preying on the misery of travelers left with few options given that road and rail links are often also cut in these conditions.
Nobody is questioning them for the wrongs they do with the passengers. Ironically, the government is also mum over their outrageous conduct. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. The state government should take up the matter with civil aviation ministry and other authorities who have control over these companies to fix cap on air fare. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) should step in and put the airline operators to task for their irresponsible conduct. Steep hike in airfares has raised serious concerns in Kashmir’s tourism industry as well, with stakeholders accusing the airliners of deliberately trying to make Kashmir the costliest and least preferred destination to cut out tourist inflow. This has now become a pattern with the airliners that at the inception of every tourism season in Kashmir they unilaterally and arbitrarily increase the fares on this sector making Kashmir packages unaffordable.
(The author writes regularly for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own firstname.lastname@example.org)