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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.

 

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HP Govt Makes RT-PCR Negative Report Mandatory for People Arriving from Seven States

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entry of tourists in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Tourist movement to Himachal Pradesh is likely to get hit during the peak season as the state government has made it mandatory for people of seven high load states viz. Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh need to carry 72-hour prior RT-PCR negative report while visiting the State. The restriction would apply after April 16th.

The decision came after Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who had been insisting that there would be no restriction on tourist movement to avert economic losses to the tourism industry, held a review meeting amid a massive surge in new cases and deaths.  

The state government has decided to allow tourists to visit the State, but at the same time, hotel owners and tourists should strictly adhere to the SoPs, Chief Minister said.

“The virus was spreading at a fast pace which was the biggest concern. During the last 45 days, the State has reported 10,690 new covid cases. 120 deaths were reported in the State during the last 45 days,” he said.

Over 900 new cases with 12 fatalities were reported on Saturday only.  On Sunday, according to the Health Department’s daily update, the state recorded 512 new cases. 

Pertinent to mention that Maharastra, Delhi and a few other states had been suggesting that a complete lockdown could be imposed if the high rate of resurgence continued in the coming days.

Though the Chief Minister had been maintaining that lockdown would be the last resort, the tone appears to be changing with the worsening of the COVID-19 situation.

Further, laying stress on twin strategy for testing, tracing and treatment with effective surveillance of micro containment zones, Chief Minister said that greater emphasis must also be laid on RT-PCR tests to achieve the target of 70 percent RT-PCR tests.

He said that the State Health Department must also take steps to increase bed capacity to meet out any eventuality.

Meanwhile, no restriction has been put on the devotees visiting various temples in the State during the Navratri festival.

The government said no overcrowding would be allowed in buses and other public transport and private vehicles. Wearing face masks even in vehicles must be enforced strictly.

Chief Minister, who faced widespread criticism over violation of SOPs during the political campaigning for elections to the Municipal Corporations, blamed laxity shown by the people for a sharp resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the State.  

 

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Himachal Pradesh: 662 New Cases & 7 Deaths in 24 Hours, Over 4500 Cases & 55 Deaths in 9 Nine Days

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Himachal Pradesh COVID-19 report

Shimla– The number of new daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in Himachal Pradesh was reported to be 662 and seven respectively on Friday till 7 pm. Kangra district reported the highest 165 new cases and four fatalities, while Sirmaur, Shimla, and Mandi recorded one fatality each.

View details of COVID-19 deaths below:

Daily covid 19 deaths

Source: HP NHM

Solan followed Kangra district with 132 new cases.

Find district-wise details of new cases below:

Daily COVID-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

Source: HP NHM

The COVID-19 case and death tallies have now reached 68173 and 1090 respectively. In April, the state has recorded a huge surge in cases. In the nine days of this month, the state has recorded 4568 new cases and 55 COVID-19 deaths – a rate of more than six deaths per day.

The state government today reviewed the situation in its Cabinet meeting and expressed concern. However, no restrictive measures were taken except extending the closure of all educational institutes till April 21.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had been maintaining that a lockdown would be the last resort.

Further, the state government today said that to make vaccination people’s movement, 11th to 14th April may be celebrated as ‘Teeka Utsav’.

The government said that the biggest matter of concern was that the virus was spreading at a fast pace. In addition to this, the number of death has also increased rapidly. All the districts have been advised to enhance their capacity be it bed capacity, quarantine capacity and medical equipment capacity etc.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said that strict action must also be taken against those involved in gross violation of SOPs. He said that the hoteliers must also strictly follow the SOPs so that the State Government may not be forced to take action. He said that laxity shown by the people has resulted in sharp resurgence of Covid cases in the State.

It’s pertinent to mention that during the campaigning for the elections to Municipal Corporations, all parties and their leaders including the Chief Minister violated all SOPs without attracting any action. The parties also faced criticism for ignoring public health for the sake of political interests, thus, setting wrong examples for the public.  

Feature Image: Pexels@polina-tankilevitch

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HP Cabinet Decisions: Educational Institutes Closed Till April 21 Amid COVID-19 Surge, No Decision on Other Restrictions

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HP Cabinet decision on curfew

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet today held a meeting in which it expressed concern over the sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in the State. The Cabinet decided to keep all educational institutions closed till April 21. The institutes would also remain closed for teaching and non-teaching staff except the staff required for exam duties till the 21st of this month.

A decision was taken to fill up 311 posts of Forest Guards in the Forest Department on a contract basis through direct recruitment. These include already approved 113 posts of Forest Guards by the State Cabinet during its meeting held on 9th of March this year.   

The Cabinet decided to fill up 25 posts of Agriculture Development Officers on a contract basis in Agriculture Department through HP Public Service Commission against direct recruitment quota. 

It decided to implement the central sector scheme SVAMITVA in the state for surveying the land parcels in rural inhabited areas using Drone technology. For this, Revenue Department would be designated as the Nodal Department for implementation of the scheme with the support of the Panchayati Raj Department. For this, MoU would be signed with the Survey of India for starting the scheme in the State. A State Steering Committee, State Project Management Unit and District Project Monitoring Unit would also be constituted for effective implementation of the scheme.

The cabinet also gave its nod to extend employment on compassionate ground to the eligible indigent of the deceased employees against available vacant posts of Class-III and Class-IV in relaxation of five percent quota as against the available vacant posts of class-III and Class-IV in DC offices of Shimla, Kinnaur, Solan and Kangra and office of Settlement Officer Kangra Division.  

It also gave its consent that the project for the development of multi-storey parking-cum-shopping complex at U-Block Mandi may be awarded under PPP mode to the highest bidder at an annual concession fee of Rs. 63,63,000 plus GST and all other applicable taxes per annum, as per terms and conditions of RFP. The selected bidder would also pay an upfront premium of Rs. 2 crores to the authority by way of five equal instalments of Rs. 40 lakh each for 24 months starting from the compliance date.

The cabinet also gave its approval for the creation of five posts of different categories for each newly created Nagar Panchayats viz Shahpur, Chirgaon, Nerwa, Nirmand, Anni, Kandaghat and Amb for smooth functioning of these newly created Nagar Panchayats.

Presentations were also made before the Cabinet by Jal Shakti Department on the prevailing drought situation in the State. It was decided to hold a review meeting under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister including all the stakeholder departments for further decisions.

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