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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- There is an automatic increase of 15% in the water charges every year. This be deferred completely for at least 5 years.
- As there would be hardly any consumption/usage during the lockdown period, it is requested that the water & sewerage charges should be completely waived.
- The Property Tax for the year 2020-21 may please be waived off.
- 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.
- The bills of the lockdown period may be allowed to the paid after 6 months with no penalty.
- 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.
- 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.
- The garbage collection fees charged from Hotels & Restaurant s should be exempted as all units stand closed due the lock down
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:
- Bar Licence fees paid for the year 2020-21 may be rolled over as advance for the year 2021-22.
- The quota for current and the next year may please be lifted as there is no business expected anyways.
- 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.
HP Govt Employees to Get Higher Pay Scale on Completion of Two Years of Service: CM Jairam
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government employees working in different departments before January 3, 2022, would be given a higher scale at par with other employees on completion of two years tenure of regular service. A higher pay scale was also announced for the Junior Office Assistants (IT) on completion of two years of regular service.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur made these announcements during the Karamchari Maha Sammelan of the Himachal Pradesh Non-Gazetted Employees Federation at the hotel Peterhof on Sunday.
He appreciated the role played by the employee especially frontline workers in the battle against the pandemic.
He said most of the government employees in the state have been given revised pay scales and on average, every employee has got the benefit of a 12 to 15 percent salary hike. There has also been an increase in the pension of about 1.50 lakh pensioners of the state. The financial benefits of Rs. 7801 crore have been given to state government employees and pensioners from the year 2018 to 2022. The pensioners who retired before 2016 are getting the benefit of a 15 to 20 percent increase in the pension while around 40 thousand pensioners who retired after 2016 would be benefitted soon, he said.
He said the daily wages were Rs. 210 in the year 2017 which has been increased by the present state government to Rs. 350. Similarly, 12 per cent interim relief annually has been provided to government employees and pensioners during the present government’s tenure. He said the Himachal government has provided Dearness Allowance to its employees and pensioners on the lines of Punjab and Central governments from the due date. The Punjab government has given only 5 percent interim relief to the employees while the Himachal government has provided 21 percent interim relief to its employees.
“Out of the total interim relief amount given to the employees and pensioners amounting to about Rs. 6500 crore, Rs. 3500 crore has been paid during the tenure of our government” added the Chief Minister.
He said that the state government has increased the government contribution for NPS employees from 10 percent to 14 percent benefitting more than one lakh employees. The NPS employees are being given the benefits of retirement and death gratuity at par with employees falling under the old pension scheme. The government has also increased the upper limit of death gratuity from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.
The Chief Minister said the state government has also increased the honorarium of para-workers working in various departments. The salary of outsource workers has been hiked by Rs 1,500 per month.
Non-Gazetted Employees Federation President Ashwani Thakur thanked the Chief Minister for providing various financial and other benefits to different categories of government employees.
Most Covid Restrictions to be Lifted From March 31, Mask and Hand Hygiene to Continue
New Delhi-The Centre has issued a notification to the States informing that the provisions of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 will not be invoked in the country after March 31. The Union Health Ministry said that the use of face masks and following hand hygiene will continue.
It implies that most of the Covid-related rules and restrictions would end.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued the notification which said that the decision was taken following the overall improvement in the situation and the preparedness of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, local authorities and State police can still invoke fines and criminal cases against persons violating COVID-19 norms under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a senior government official said.
The DM Act was invoked on March 24, 2020, due to the pandemic
“Over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases. The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28%. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 Cr vaccine doses have been administered,” the notification said.
“I would like to mention that in view of the nature of the disease, we still need to remain watchful of the situation. Wherever any surge in the number of cases is observed, the States/UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at a local level, as advised by MoHFW (Health Ministry) from time to time,” the notification said.
The Indian government had issued various guidelines and measures for the first time on March 24, 2020, under the Disaster Management Act to curb the COVID-19 situation in the country, which have been modified several times thereafter.
India currently has 23,087 active COVID-19 cases and recorded 1,778 new cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate has also declined to 0.28%.
HP Cabinet Decisions: Country Liquor Made Cheaper in New Excise Policy, Read All Decisions
Shimla-A meeting of the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet was held on March 20, 2022, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
The excise policy for the financial year 2022-23 was approved. Approval was also given for the renewal of retail excise vends in the state for the financial year 2022-23 at the renewal fees of 4% of the value of unit/vend.
The State Government said that wants to enhance the government revenue and curb the smuggling of country liquor from the neighbouring states by a reduction in its price.
The brands of Country Liquor will be cheaper as license fees have been reduced. This will help in providing good quality liquor at a cheaper rate to the consumers.
In the new excise policy, the 15% fixed quota of country liquor for manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees has been abolished. According to the government, this step will give the retail licensees to lift their quota from the suppliers of their choice and further assure the supply of good quality country liquor at competitive prices. The MRP of country liquor will be cheaper by 16% of the existing price.
In this year’s policy, the Gaudhan Vikas Nidhi Fund has been enhanced by Re.1/- from the existing Rs.1.50 to Rs.2.50.
The fixed annual license fee of Bars has been rationalized by abolishing the area-specific slabs of license fee. Now throughout the State, there will be uniform license slabs based upon the room capacity in hotels.
Rates of the annual fixed license fee of Bars in the tribal areas has been reduced considerably.
Further, all the above stakeholders will have to install CCTV cameras at their establishments as it was made mandatory for them.
Wholesale vends and retail vends, the penalty provisions under the H.P. Excise Act, 2011 have been made more stringent.
An end to end online Excise Administration System would be established in Himachal Pradesh, the government said.
HP Government estimates a collection of Rs 2131 crore revenue during the year, which will be Rs. 264 crores higher than the financial year 2021-22 – growth of 14% in state excise revenues.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to amend Himachal Pradesh Disaster Relief Manual-2012 to include deaths due to biting of honey bees, hornet and wasps, accidental drowning and deaths due to accidents of vehicles (including land, water and air) under this Manual.
The Cabinet gave its approval for filling up 11 posts of ‘A’ Class Tehsildar in Revenue Department through direct recruitment on regular basis through Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.
HP State Toll Policy 2022-23
The HP Cabinet also gave its nod to HP State Toll Policy for the year 2022-23 which envisages auction cum tender for all the toll barriers in the State. During the year 2021-22, toll revenue has registered a growth of 20 percent of the previous year’s revenue.