A planned school trip to the United States has become a nightmare for the parents of children studying at Sacred Heart Convent School in Ludhiana’s Sarabha Nagar after rejection of visas by the embassy. Aggrieved parents are now demanding their money back from the travel agent who was hired by the school authorities for the purpose.
A group of 148 students from classes 9 to 11 of Sacred Heart Convent School had paid Rs 2.80 lakh each for the trip. After their visas were rejected in July first week, parents have been returned Rs 1.30 lakh each, while sum of Rs 1.50 lakh each (totalling Rs 2.22 crore approximately) is still stuck with the travel agent.
Failing to get the money back even a month after visa rejection, the parents have now approached police against travel agent as school authorities have communicated to them that pending money (Rs 1.50 lakh each student) is stuck with the travel agent. While parents on Friday met the Additional DCP Surendra Lamba, the school principal said that she has already submitted a police complaint against travel agent on behalf of the school for not returning the pending amount.
A parent told The Indian Express: “We paid Rs 2.80 lakh each in December 2018 when the trip was planned. We were also given an itinerary of the trip by this travel company called ‘World Leisure Holidays’. There are total 148 students who were scheduled to go to the US in July. The students were divided into three groups. Two groups were taken to Delhi in July first week for visa interviews, but visas of all of them were rejected. So the third group wasn’t taken. As soon as we got to know that visas have been rejected, we started demanding our money back from school. The school returned Rs 80,000 per student in first installment and said that rest of amount is with the travel agent. Then after school submitted police complaint against this agent, he released another installment of Rs 50,000 per student. So we have received Rs 1.30 lakh per student, but Rs 1.50 lakh per student is still stuck. We are not being told that when amount will be returned. It is Rs 2.22 crore in total approximately.”
Another parent alleged, “Whenever we approach the school principal, she says that travel agent is not picking her calls also so she has submitted police complaint. Now, is it our fault if travel agent is not communicating even with school authorities? First they promised moon and stars to the students and took the money. Tall claims were made in the itinerary which was given to us.”
The itinerary for the proposed 14-day trip, which was given to the parents and students by the company (copy with The Indian Express) said that students would visit New York, Niagara falls, Washington DC, San Francisco, NASA Ames visitor centre, Universal Studios and Disney Land at Los Angeles, California with stay at 3 or 4 star hotels throughout the tour.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional DCP (Economic Offences Wing) Surendra Lamba said that police has received a written complaint against travel agent Aman Bawa, who runs World Leisure Holidays from school principal following which he was contacted and made to return Rs 50,000 to each parent. “Since more than half of amount (Rs 1.50 lakh per student) is still pending, we will file an FIR against him if he fails to return the money in coming days. We have also told parents to file a written complaint against him. He is in touch with us, but yet to confirm when he will return money,” said Lamba.
Meanwhile, school principal Sister Reshmi, talking to The Indian Express, claimed: “We had Rs 80,000 per student in cash which we had kept as security and it was returned immediately after visas were rejected. The agent has stopped picking my calls too so I filed police complaint against him. Now, pending amount is stuck with him. We do not have a penny taken from parents.”