Exploitation, say visitors: Rs 60 is peanuts: Director
Srinagar: Mohammad Isaaq, 35, an advocate at J&K High Court, went to Srinagar airport last month to receive his brother, who was arriving from Dubai after a long time. As Isaaq reached near the airport, his brother called him and said that he has already arrived and was waiting for him. Isaaq, after reaching the airport noticed something unusual at the gate. He was asked to come out of the airport within ten minutes or pay for the parking.
Isaaq picked up his brother and came out as soon as possible. He was stopped at the gate and was asked to pay the parking charges of 60 rupees. He was “surprised” as to how he was charged for parking when he didn’t park the car anywhere in the airport.
“They had told me that that if I come back within ten minutes they will not charge me anything but since there were many cars in the lane and in the process of loading the baggage and then coming back, the time limit had exceeded. It took me 10-15 minutes to come back and they gave me a ticket,” said Isaaq, who is yet to understand the new system at the airport.
Another youth, Mir Mudassir, who works in a multi-national company abroad and was on a holiday, had come to airport to receive his friend coming home from Saudi Arabia. After the checking at the main gate, he said that some guy who was a non-Kashmiri came and noted his number on a machine which was very “unusual”.
“My car number was noted from a machine. I told the guy why did he did that and he replied that I have to come back within ten minutes, failing which I have to pay the parking fee. I said I am not parking my car anywhere but my friend is already waiting outside and I will just take a U-turn and will pick my friend.” Mudassir said.
Mudassir thought he will manage to come back within the given time. He reached the pickup point but drove his car slowly since, he thought, that airport has a speed limit and vehicles cannot be over speeded. He tried to be as quick as possible but over timed with a couple of minutes and had to pay while coming out.
“You have speed breakers and other cars slowing you down. Then you exchange quick greetings when you see a person after a long time and then load the baggage and stuff. The point is that it is going to take more than ten minutes,” Mudassir said. “The ten minutes time they are giving is just a gimmick to make fool out of people. There is least possibility that someone might come out within 10 minutes until they drive at a fast speed.”
Mudassir said that he has been travelling throughout the world and he has “never seen anywhere” that any amount is charged for pick and drop at the airports apart from the designated parking spots which are meant for cars parked for the long time.
According to various other private and passenger transport drivers visiting the airport, the ten minute window is a “formality” to “justify” the free entry tag for which they otherwise they would been questioned.
“It is a bizarre and absurd way of managing the airport to which I strongly object and strongly protest. This is just a way of extracting money from the people and this is not right. Since the firm must have got the tender giving a huge amount so they are now extracting it from people as quickly as they can,” Mudassir alleged.
This new system is in place since the operations of the airport have been outsourced to an Ahmadabad based firm, RBA Hospitality And Hotels Private Limited, the majority of the staff of the company is also from outside the state.
Director Srinagar Airport, Akash Deep Mathur, told Kashmir Reader that they got a lot of “positive response” since the introduction of the new fee. “We have been receiving positive responses from people who used to complain about the traffic rush in the airport by which passengers used to get late for their flights. Also people used to park their vehicles unnecessary in the airport creating hurdles for the security staff,” Akash said.”These charges are not huge, but 50-60 rupees in these days are like peanuts. People can easily afford it. And this is for the time period of two hours.”
Meanwhile, the airport staff said that they used to have free parking in the airport but now they too have to pay monthly parking.