Srinagar: For airlines the golden opportunity is here again, with all roads in and out of Kashmir closed for days together by snowfall and inclement weather.
On the Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi route, air tickets are being sold at a price of Rs 12,000 per person. Before the closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the prices were between Rs 3,000 and Rs 6,000.
The ticket prices spiked as soon as the highway shut down on Sunday, leaving thousands of passengers, especially tourists, stranded. Patients, students, small businessmen are the worst victims at such a time.
“I had to see a doctor in Delhi for an emergency health issue. It is for this reason that I have to travel along with three family members. The airlines are not considerate, they are busy in making money,” said Gulzar Ahmad, a cloth merchant in downtown Srinagar.
This year, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Gulzar had to face a loss of over 50 percent in his business, he said.
Remember that the price escalation has come at a time when there has been less business activity everywhere in Kashmir. The past year was the second consecutive one in which business activity was shut for a prolonged period and tourism was almost negligible. More than Rs 50,000 crore has been lost, almost half of the value of JK’s economy, in these two years, according to industry estimates.
Over the years, airlines and travel agents have been hand-in-glove when it comes to profiteering during winter. A senior travel agent said that agents buy tickets in advance to make money in the latter part of the year, when the roads get blocked. He said that tickets are bought in bulk at rates of around Rs 2,500-Rs 3,000, and sold at double or treble the price later.
Muhammad Yousuf, a frequent traveller by air, said that all this happens in the open, and the government won’t fix it. “This is simply cheating,” he said.