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Impossible to Pay Salaries & Wages to Staff With Zero Cash Flow, Says Hotel Association, Seeks Relief from CM Jairam Thakur

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Shimla Hotel and Restaurant Association

Shimla-The nationwide-lockdown in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has badly hit the States having tourism industry as their major source of revenue. In such states, the financial crisis is staring in the face of every individual associated with the hospitality industry.

For Himachal Pradesh, this industry is the second-largest source of revenue, which implies a large number of people are dependent on their livelihood on tourism. This year, the State tourism activity is sure to remain closed during both the peak seasons for tourism– summers and winters.

The fear of loss of jobs or unpaid leaves is looming large on the heads of lakhs of people employed with travel agencies and as staff at hotels and restaurants or working as taxi drivers etc. The revival of this industry would be a slow process even after the end of the lockdown.   

With this concern, led by its president Sanjay Sood, a delegation of the Shimla Hotel and Restaurants Association that also included office bearers Mr. Prince Kukreja and Mr. Baljeet Singh met the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Wednesday.

The delegation sought relief for the battered tourism industry in the State and apprised the Chief Minister regarding issues like staff salaries, electricity bills, Bar Licence fees etc.

The delegation appreciated Jairam Thakur for being the first Chief Minister to impose a complete curfew to tackle the COVID-19. The association hoped it would help making Himachal a coronavirus-free State soon.

However, due to the lock down, the tourism industry has taken a major setback and would take a much longer time to revive as compared to any other industry due two major reasons, he said.  

First, people will be scared to travel for a long time even after the situation normalises. Secondly, due to poor financial health post-lockdown, people will be left with very less spending capacity and would be busy resurrecting their lost businesses rather than travel for leisure.

Sanjay Sood said that the majorly affected industry would require immense support from the State Government to revive itself. He sought some immediate reliefs to tide over the major crises, which are as followed:

Note: The below-given information has been published from the presentation given to the Chief Minister by the Delegation and is not edited by Himachal Watcher.

Salaries and Wages:

  1. Our industry is highly labour intensive; we require unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled manpower in large numbers. With our business completely shut down since the 3rd week of March and after foreseeing a long period after which we expect our sector to revive, our biggest concern is the Salary and wages of our staff. We deeply understand that the livelihood of so many families depends on the establishments. It is impossible to pay the salaries & wages with zero cash flows for such a long period and it pains us not being able to pay the remuneration to them. Since the staff is technically on leave due to this medical emergency, the ESIC Corporation can be directed to pay their salaries as they do when the staff is on leave due to some medical condition. This support from the Govt/ESIC will be required not only during the lockdown period but also, 6 months after that, since Tourism is not likely to pick up till the last quarter.
  2. For the staff who are beyond the coverage limit of the ESIC, the establishments may be allowed to pay 25% of the salary and balance may be paid by Government/Government agency like EPF.
  3. For the units which are not covered under ESIC but which are covered in GST, we request that the Government pay salaries to all the employees corroborated by balance sheet and certified by CA.

Property Tax, Water & Sewerage Charges:

  1. There is an automatic increase of 15% in the water charges every year. This be deferred completely for at least 5 years.
  2. As there would be hardly any consumption/usage during the lockdown period, it is requested that the water & sewerage charges should be completely waived.
  3. The Property Tax for the year 2020-21 may please be waived off.

 

 Electricity Bills:

  1. The electric charges include a “Fixed Charges”(Demand Minimum Charges) component, which is like a fixed rental. This be exempted for the lockdown period, as has already been done by the Uttar Pradesh Govt.
  2. The bills of the lockdown period may be allowed to the paid after 6 months with no penalty.
  3. Reduction in commercial electricity Tariff by about 10% to 20% for a period of 5 years, on the lines of announcements made by Maharashtra, Punjab & other Electricity Regulatory Commissions of various states.

Local Taxes:

  1. The Local/Municipal taxes to be stayed for a period of one year starting from 1/4/20. This can be borne by the State Govt.
  2. The garbage collection fees charged from Hotels & Restaurant s should be exempted as all units stand closed due the  lock down 

Promotion:

This support is not required immediately, but post lockdown the Govt should promote & advertise our destinations extensively & encourage domestic tourism. All pending proposals with regard to infrastructure should be cleared at the earliest, for this sector to pick-up.

Bar license & VAT:

  1. Bar Licence fees paid for the year 2020-21 may be rolled over as advance for the year 2021-22.
  2. The quota for current and the next year may please be lifted as there is no business expected anyways.

Minimum Wages:

  1. Minimum wages in terms of VDA not to be increased of fixed for at least the next 2 years.

 

“There are some issues like reduction in GST on Hotels, Loan waivers and repayments which are a central Government subject. You are requested to get a special package for Himachal Pradesh as hospitality is a very big Industry here,”

Sanjay Sood urged.

Further, he assured that the association would extend its full support during these uncertain and hard times.

 

Misc News/Press Release

After Booking About 200 Women in Spiti, CM Now Urges Rural Women to be Vigilant About Quarantine Violations

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Tribal woman in kinnaur arrested

Shimla-On the one hand, Himachal Pradesh Government is allegedly harassing nearly 200 tribal women of Spiti for being vigilant and denying entry to the large convey of Cabinet Minister Ram Lal Markanda early in June for not following the rules regarding quarantine, but on the other hand Chief Minister Jairam Thakur is urging the womenfolk to keep a strict vigil on the people coming home from other States, who have been kept in-home quarantine.

Also Read: Haughty Minister Allegedly Heckling Tribal Women Who Dared to Deny Him Entry in District Over Quarantine Violation

He urged them to help to monitor such people so that they don’t jump home quarantine. He said that this would help in checking the spread of this virus at the community level. He was reportedly interacting with rural women who are beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna on Monday.

The Chief Minister also made a big claim that Himachal Pradesh has become the first state in the country where cent percent households have LPG gas connections.

Thakur made a claim that there is no more collecting fuel wood and cooking food on traditional chullah in the State. Now, rural women do not have to go out for collecting fuel wood, Additional Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar added to the CM’s claim.

The CM claimed that Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna, gas connections were provided free of cost to 1.36 lakh families of the State. 

Under State Government’s Himachal Grihini Suvidha Yojna, 2,76,243 families were provided free gas connections in the State.                               

 

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Misc News/Press Release

HIMCARE: Last Date for Registration/Renewal Extended

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Himachal Pradesh Himcare Registration and Renewal

Shimla: The last date for renewal of HIMCARE card has been extended till 15th July 2020, the Additional Chief Secretary Health R.D. Dhiman had informed recently. Under this scheme, free health treatment is provided upto rupees five lakh. 

 He said that new eligible families can also register upto 15th July 2020. Besides this, those families can also renew their cards on completion of a time period of 365 days. The beneficiaries can visit the website for registration and renewal or can visit the nearest Lok Mitra centre.

It is mandatory to upload the required documents for registration and renewal of card and the list of required documents was available on the website.

ACS said that those families whose card has expired on 30th June 2020, didn’t renew their card till 15th July 2020, then they would have to wait till January and would not be able to avail the benefit of free health treatment.

Tourism Activities in Himachal to Increase, Stay Alert: ACS Dhiman

Further, on Monday, Dhiman said the economic and tourism activities would be increasing in the State, therefore, it was important to stay alert of this virus for self-safety and safety of the society.

This statement regarding safety from coronavirus is contrary to the decisions of the state government to open tourism activity amid a spurt in COVID-19 cases.

The State Government is facing a backlash from every sphere of society for opening borders for all, especially tourists, without the need of e-pass or permission from the authorities. This decision is more likely to fuel the COVID-19 outbreak in the State.

At the same time, Dhiman is asking the people not to get afraid of coronavirus and to follow the guidelines issued by the Government, maintain self-hygiene, keeping a physical distance of one meter or three feet from another person, to avoid crowding at one place, cover the mouth with a mask or face cover and do not touch the nose, eyes and mouth.

He also asked the people to avoid such wards in the hospital where patients of coronavirus were being treated. In case a person was suffering from fever, cough, cold or having difficulty in breathing, the person should immediately contact helpline number 104 or avail services of e-sanjeevani OPD.

He also asked the people to avoid such wards in the hospital where patients of coronavirus were being treated. In case a person was suffering from fever, cough, cold or having difficulty in breathing, the person should immediately contact helpline number 104 or avail services of e-sanjeevani OPD.

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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal: Tourists from Neighboring States Line Up at Borders, Residents Allege Discrimination in Quarantine Rules  

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Himachal Pradesh - tourist start coming

Shimla: With the decision of Jairam Thakur-led State Government to allow tourist activity and to allow people from other states to enter Himachal Pradesh without obtaining e-pass or permission from district authorities, a beeline of vehicles was seen at the Parwanoo inter-state barrier on Sunday. This led to a traffic jam as over 1700 vehicles including both residents and tourists lined up at the barrier.

A large number of them were sent back from the barrier as they lacked required COVID-19 negative report or had not registered on the e-pass portal.

However, several tourists were allowed to enter the state after verifying their documents and COVID-19 reports, the authorities said.

According to a media report, some tourists reached Kasauli and Barog – popular spots for weekend tourism. They reportedly returned after spending a few hours. Contrary to this, the mandatory condition for tourist entry says that visitors would have to make a booking of a minimum of five days.

Similarly, visitors and returnees had reached other boarders like in Swarghat and Mehatpur. 

Also Read: All SOPs for Hotels, Restaurants, Home-Stays and Others Involved in Tourism Industry

Another issue that the authorities would face is verifying that all tourists who had entered the State returned. Tourist would have to furnish a COVID-19 negative report not older than 72 hours, register on the online portal, and make an advance booking of a minimum of five days. The SOPs have not defined as to how to verify that every single tourists have existed the state after the expiry of the mentioned duration.

Further, residents of the State are questioning the government over discrimination in quarantine rules. While tourist can enter the state and roam around for a few days without being quarantined, the residents would have to follow institutional and home-quarantine strictly even if they have a COVID-19 negative report.

Also Read: Tourist Activity Allowed, Read New Rules for Entering State, Quarantine, Plying of Public Transport

It’s pertinent to mention that the Government is already facing a backlash over its decision to open the State borders for tourists at a time when the State is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases. The hoteliers were also not in favour of opening the State for tourists. The residents are feeling insecure following this decision as they fear it would lead to a bigger coronavirus outbreak. With appearance of 17 new cases yesterday, the the COVID-19 tally for the State had reached 1064. 

Considering the beeline of tourist vehicles merely after 48 hours of the announcement to allow tourism activity, it is clear that tourists are likely to flood the state in the coming days. Monsoon would be the only deterrent currently. What’s concerning is that hospitality industry did not get any time to train staff or arrange all facilities mentioned in the SOPs issued by the State Government. 

The public and hoteliers are of the opinion that this decision was taken in a haste without any consideration for consequences. On the other hand the State Government claims that it had asked the Centre to allow it manage the influx of visitors/returnees in accordance with the current situation. This request, Government said, was declined by the Centre. The Government believes that opening Himachal for tourists would bring relief to those employed in the hospitality industry. 

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