What was supposed to be a 28-day study tour turned into a nightmare within three days for a group of college students from Kerala, after their tour operator allegedly scammed them of Rs 7 lakh and abandoned them mid-journey.
All the 39 students, who have been left stranded in Delhi, were identified as final year B Tech Dairy Technology students from the Thrissur Dairy Science and Technology Institute in Kerala's Thrissur district.
On Tuesday, February 18, the 39 of them accompanied by three faculty members flew to Delhi for a study tour spanning the capital city and Haryana. The tour package was arranged by a Thiruvananthapuram based tour operator named Aditya Destinations.
Until Friday, all 42 members of the group had been booked into a hotel in Delhi's Karol Bagh neighbourhood.
However, on February 21 (Friday), the group was leaving to the National Dairy Research Institute at Karnal in Haryana, when the hotel staff informed them during check out that their payment had not been settled. The staff also prohibited the group from leaving the hotel without paying the bill.
This led to confusion among the students. On ringing up their tour operators from Aditya Destinations, there was no response. Although a tour guide had accompanied the students, he did not know the details and whereabouts of the operators. This is when they realised to their horror that they had been scammed. Finally, the students and faculty members had to pool in Rs 80,000 to settle the hotel bill.
According to college authorities, an advance payment of Rs 7.14 lakh had been made to Aditya Destinations for the tour package which was priced at Rs 10 lakh. On learning about the alleged scam, the college dean filed a complaint at the Mannuthy police station in Thrissur.
"We have filed IPC sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) against the tour operators. The accused has been identified as Arun S Nair, proprietor of Aditya Destinations which is registered in Pulimudu in Thiruvananthapuram, where it has its office. However, we have not been able to arrest the accused man yet. We are also looking into similar scams that the accused may have done," an officer at the Mannuthy station told TNM.
Meanwhile, the college got in touch with the Chief Minister's office and officials of Kerala House intervened to provide accommodation to the students for the night. They then continued their study tour with the state government's help.
"We are waiting for further details from the students, who will return following their study tour, in order to identify and arrest the accused. Although we have found out that the company was registered in Thiruvananthapuram, we do not have the whereabouts and address of the accused Arun S Nair yet," the officer added.