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Travellers forced to sleep in forest thrash tour operator

September 1, 2014 Headline News, Tour Operator No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A busload of furious holidaymakers ended up hunting down the tour operator responsible for organising their “coach tour from hell”, thrashing him and handing him over to police to be charged with cheating.

The travellers had good reason to be angry. A woeful saga of transport bungles, a missing bus and a bouncing cheque included having to sleep rough in a forest. Some on the tour had to sell their watches and jewellery to raise the price of the journey home.

The Deccan Herald, a leading English-language daily newspaper in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka, related the story under the headline “Tour operator thrashed, handed over to police”.

It began when a man named Vishakanthaiah advertised a 11-day package tour to Bijapur, Mumbai, Shirdi, Goa, Shimoga and surrounding areas at an attractive price. Vishakanthaiah, according to the paper, works for a travel agency in Kengeri, a town on the outskirts of Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru and the third largest city in India.

A total of 37 passengers, including 18 women, booked seats on the grand tour, the paper related. Veeshakanthaiah collected INR 11,000 (AUD 195) from each. The bus left Bangalore, followed by an associate of Vishakanthaiah’s named Umapathy, who travelled in a mini-van containing the passengers’ luggage. Umapathy took along eight of his relatives for the ride, the paper said.

Problems started when the bus needed petrol.

“The bus driver did not have money to refuel. We collected INR 25,000 [AUD 440] for it,” Ganga Hanumaiah, one of the travellers, stated in his complaint to police.

When the bus reached the state border of Goa on the third evening, the driver had no money to pay the inter-state permit fee. Unable to proceed, the travellers had to spend the night in a nearby forest.

Umapathy then turned up and paid INR 9000 [AUD 159] to allow the bus to enter Goa. As it did so, Umapathy turned his mini-van around and drove back to Bangalore – taking the travellers’ luggage with him.

In Goa without their luggage, passengers soon faced an even greater challenge. Their bus disappeared.

“In Goa, we had to make our own accommodation,” Hanumaiah told the paper.

“We were shocked to find the bus missing next day.”

When contacted, Vishakanthaiah tried to make amends by presenting relatives of the travellers with a cheque for INR 20,000 [AUD 353] in his office.

The cheque bounced. Some of the passengers had to sell personal effects to afford to return home.

On their return, they descended en masse on Vishakanthaiah and Umapathy. A thrashing was meted out, according to the paper. Police confirmed they had taken the two tour operators into custody following complaints against them – and possibly for the two men’s own safety.

Written by Peter Needham

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