A screenshot of the conversation in the NGO's WhatsApp group (Arranged by KM)

Srinagar: Cashing in on the plight of those stranded in COVID-19 lockdown, a Delhi-based NGO is charging a whopping Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 for sending people to Kashmir from the national capital.

In an expose carried out by The Kashmir Monitor, the NGO operated in Delhi by a Kashmiri woman claims to “arrange all passes” and transport for the students and ill persons.

For a Delhi-Kashmir drop arranged in an ambulance or a cab, the NGO charges Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000.

“We have been in contact with the NGO for some weeks as the government has failed to evacuate us. But the rate being quoted by the driver arranged by the NGO is too high. From where can I manage Rs 40,000 in these tough times,” said a student who is currently stranded in a posh locality of Delhi.

A screenshot of the conversation in the NGO’s WhatsApp group (Arranged by KM)

The NGO, the student said, has created a WhatsApp group where it is delegating terms and conditions to the stranded students.

The Kashmir Monitor is in possession of one such WhatsApp chat in the group where the NGO administrator asks the stranded students to follow the guidelines.

“The administrator of the NGO claims they can arrange all passes and is in touch with the J&K administration,” the student said.

Another student stranded in outskirts of Delhi said the NGO quoted a price of Rs 41,000 for sending him to Srinagar last week.

“The NGO said they will arrange a seat for me in an ambulance that already had a patient and two attendants in it,” the student said.

But this week, he added, the ‘fare’ has gone up.

“When I contacted them again, the NGO said that since diesel prices have increased, the rates are Rs 50,000 now,” the student said.

He obviously couldn’t afford it and denied the offer.

The Kashmir Monitor called the NGO administrator over the phone as an aggrieved stranded student in New Delhi.

In response, the NGO administrator said it will share the contact details of an Innova cab driver, who will charge somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000 rupees.

“Look I can help you get the passes but you have to pay the driver yourself,” the administrator said.

Sources in New Delhi told The Kashmir Monitor that the NGO so far has sent dozens of persons including patients and students to Kashmir in as many as 17 ambulances.

“The administrator when placing the offer boasts about it. She tells the prospective passengers that many of the persons sent to Kashmir have even completed their home quarantine and are moving freely,” sources said.

Another aggrieved student in Delhi who contacted the NGO recently said that for evacuating students, it will now arrange buses but will drop them at Lakhanpur.

“We have been asked to pay Rs 4000 to book a seat in a 45-seater bus which will drop us at Lakhanpur where we will be handed over the district administration,” the student said.

The students have been asked to follow a list of guidelines and fill a form.

One of the guidelines on serial number 2 reads: “Please do not share this message with any other individual/group. This form is for members in this group only.”

“We are arranging all the permissions and will evacuate you till Lakhanpur and handover to respective district administration, we are in contact with the district administration,” reads the message circulated in the group.

Screenshot of the WhatsApp group the NGO is running in which those stranded are informed about the travel plans and fares.
Screenshot of the WhatsApp group the NGO is running in which those stranded are informed about the travel plans and fares.

Meanwhile, the nodal officers designated to evacuate students from New Delhi have informed several of them to arrange their own vehicles if they can.

The students who are in touch with the NGO said they tried contacting the phone numbers of the designated nodal officers who replied that if it was possible to arrange their own transport, they could get the passes and start the journey.

The Kashmir Monitor tried to contact Rimpi Ohri Liaison Officer for those stranded in Delhi on the officially shared contact number 9419193363 but the same was switched off for two consecutive days.

Similarly, three nodal officers for Delhi evacuation – Ali Afsar (9797823332), Manzoor Ahmad (7006621243), and Muzaffar Ahmad (9419355541) – too were either not reachable or their phones were switched off.

(The Kashmir Monitor is not naming the students quoted in the story since they are still bargaining with the NGO for a ‘better fare’.)

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About the Author

A journalist by chance with over five years of experience in reporting, editing, and bucketing local, national and international content for my current organization. I have covered education, health, politics, and human rights. I like working for a daily, though I occasionally try my pen in long-form to connect personal narratives with history.

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