Mumbai: BMC to pay hotels housing frontline warriors 50 per cent more

Updated: 24 July, 2020 07:19 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

High-level meeting of hospitality body and civic officials results in rate revision of hotels where docs on COVID duty stay

The Lalit near the airport had recently asked four doctors from Kerala to pay for further stay. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The Lalit near the airport had recently asked four doctors from Kerala to pay for further stay. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi

A high-level meeting of different hotel association members in Mumbai with senior BMC officials has resulted in the civic body agreeing to pay almost 50 per cent more for the stay of doctors and frontline warriors on duty at various hospitals. 

After questions raised by hotel associations, a committee was formed by civic chief Iqbal Singh Chahal headed by Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone III) Parag Masurkar.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president of HRAWI (Hotel and Restaurant Association, Western India) said, "We have been writing numerous letters to the civic commissioner as it was presumed initially that the requirement of rooms would be for a limited duration, but instead of weeks it turned out to be months. Around 65 of our staff, who were migrants, have left. With no business during lockdown, we agreed for BMC to take over the running of the hotels, but they were reluctant due to manpower shortage and unavailability of expert staff."

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Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president, HRAWI
Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president, HRAWI 

"The BMC's initial requirement was around 2,500 rooms. Gradually the number rose to 3,300. We provided the rooms in 88 to 90 hotels across the city, including non-star and star hotels. BMC even filed cases and threatened action against some hotels who refused to cooperate," added Kohli.

Shocking rate card

What came as a shock for hoteliers was the tariff including stay, food and laundry service slated at R500 (for non-star) and R1,000-R2,000 for two-star to five-star hotels per night. In normal times, the hotels would have charged R6,000 to R15,000 daily. "BMC's rates were rubbing salt on our wounds. All hotel associations came together and echoed our concerns to the civic chief and the chief minister," Kohli added. 

Shivanand Shetty, president, AAHAR, said, "Initially, most of the hotels were reluctant to allow frontline COVID-19 staff as it would have adversely impacted other patrons. While some hotels volunteered, others were compelled by ward officers to make arrangements on a no-profit, no-loss basis."

Shivanand Shetty, president, AAHAR
Shivanand Shetty, president, AAHAR

Shetty added, "BMC had a pre-decided rate card included twin sharing rooms, food, laundry and GST, which was far below the regular tariff charges, making hotels suffer further losses as they had to keep the kitchen running and other overhead costs." 

Retrospective revision

"DMC Parag Masurkar was kind enough to take up the matter to a higher level. We have been informed that the new rates will be implemented retrospectively from June 18. Though none of the hotel bills has been cleared, so far," said Shetty.

Kohli, added, "We have requested the corporation to clear the bills. We, hoteliers, are with the government during this crisis but they cannot ignore our pleas, and make us run from pillar to post."

When asked about the submission of bills, Kohli said, "We have not submitted the bills as the moment the bills are prepared, the hotel will first have to pay GST of 12 to18 per cent and moreover the revised rate was expected, hence bills were also not made. Also, BMC was to bear the GST, but the latest circular is not giving clarity on that. We have also requested BMC to pay at least some money in lump sum so that we can continue business and in a week's time, bills would be submitted. They should be cleared within a week to 15 days."

The other side

DMC Masurkar said, "I headed the committee and have submitted the report on revised rates for hotels, which has been approved. My role was to negotiate the rates and nothing more." Although Masurkar mentioned that the rates will be applicable retrospectively from June 18, the civic corporation's July 10 circular does not say anything on the matter.

With regard to payment of bills, Masurkar said, "The hotels will have to deal directly with the concerned local ward offices or the hospitals for their bill payment."

Responding to this, Kohli told mid-day, "It is unfair to make us coordinate with hospitals and local ward offices. The ward offices were responsible for reservation request and all doctors and frontline staff were being accommodated on such requests. The BMC should appoint a designated officer for clearing all hotel bills and for coordination."

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First Published: 24 July, 2020 06:15 IST

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