No Kashmir Umrah yet: How to avoid fraudulent tour operators

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Srinagar: Like many others, you must be eager to perform Umrah as pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has not been possible from the Kashmir valley since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

And if you come across advertisements offering Umrah, be aware that no operator yet offers a package from here. Yes, Saudi Arabia has opened Umrah for several countries, but would-be Kashmir pilgrims have to wait right now.

Don’t get fleeced in the name of Umrah

The Association of Hajj Umrah Companies of Jammu and Kashmir (JKAHUC) said only “fraudulent” companies currently offer Umrah packages from the Kashmir Valley.

“It is our utmost duty to inform the general public that fraudulent and misleading travel packages have become common and we have learned that some tour operators are taking bookings for the Umrah Pilgrimage for the upcoming session and have accepted advance payments for the same. This is to notify and inform the public in general and Umrah seekers in particular to be vigilant and not fall into the trap of such packages,” said the general secretary of JKAHUC, Mohammad Younis, in an opinion.

“The Umrah travel restrictions have not yet been lifted and there has been no formal confirmation from government authorities as to when the restrictions will be lifted. No tour operator can organize a pilgrimage trip, nor give any rates in advance.Recent pilgrimage news related to government bookings for Hajj, which are scheduled every year and are solely handled by the Haj Committee of India.Private Umrah pilgrimage tours are still limited for foreign nationals, so we urge everyone not to place deposits on booking their Umrah travel package,” he added.

Is Umrah possible from Kashmir?

As there are no Umrah reservations available, the pilgrimage is now only possible with a visit visa and it can cost you up to Rs. 2,80,000. Before Covid, Umrah packages started from around Rs. 80,000.

If people want to perform Umrah, they will have to obtain a visit visa and they will have to quarantine for two weeks in a “third country”.

However, according to JKAHUC Media Secretary Saleem Jabbar, no private company currently had a package that would allow Umrah to obtain a visit visa either.

“An Umrah visa costs Rs. 14,000 but a visit visa will cost Rs. 80,0000. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous elements had started telling people to pay an advance for Umrah and the same would be confirmed next month. How to book when no package is available? And if a company offers a package, they should indicate the cost of the package before making the reservations,” he told the Kashmir Monitor.

Who to contact?

If someone offers you an Umrah package, you can contact the Jammu and Kashmir Hajj Umrah Business Association (JKAHUC) for clarification. Do not hesitate to contact JKAHUC General Secretary Mohammad Younis (8803057750) or Association Media Secretary Saleem Jabbar (9906673377) if a fraudulent company tells you to deposit an Umrah advance. After all, several scandals of private companies duping potential pilgrims in the name of Haj and Umrah had surfaced in the past in the Kashmir Valley.

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