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The Spectre of Saturn!

Thursday, May 4, 2017, 15:43 Hrs  [IST]

‘It seems all are hell bent to destroy this industry,’ said a hospitality industry leader in an informal conversation lately. His concerns were not totally unfounded if one carefully analyses the chain of events that unfolded in the country in the last few months. The courts, the government and all its agencies are unsparingly dictating terms on an industry which is not only legitimate as per the laid down policies of the country but also one of the highest revenue generators for the economy. That gives enough substance and fodder for traditionalists to suspect that the industry has fallen into an ominous spectre of Saturn!

The Supreme Court order of March 31, prohibiting all sorts of liquor business around 500 metres radius of the National and State Highways were a shocker for the entire hospitality industry in the country. Before industry could gulp that bitter pill, another jolt came from the government that prides itself as a government which delivers ‘ease of doing business’, in the name of controlling the food wastage. The Food and Consumer Affairs Minister who was less seen or heard in the last two years and not able to control the gross wastage of food grains rotting in government godowns has pronounced the diktat of ‘portion size control’ at hotels and restaurants. Going a step further, this time in the name of consumer right protection, he brought out guidelines restraining hotels and restaurants from levying Service Charge from consumers as part of the bill.

While the merits and demerits of these actions are largely perception based, and debatable as well, one thing is sure that at least the verdict of the Apex court if implemented in ‘letter and spirit’ will have disastrous consequences on those investors who have invested in their businesses along those highways expecting high return on investment. Ironically, instead of finding a lasting solution for the issue by convincing the courts about the adverse implications of the verdict on the hospitality and tourism industry, the attempt currently is to bypass the spirit of the verdict by hook or crook. Somehow, the political leadership of the country which swears to unleash the soft power of India in tourism, hospitality, etc., is keeping a calculated silence on the issue, raising genuine doubts in the minds of the industry about a larger agenda building up in the background. Even the eloquent voice of NITI Aayog CEO who erupted in the social media immediately on the damaging effects of the SC verdict on jobs, fell silent abruptly.

The whole negativity prevailing in the industry today makes the social media conversations quite exciting to track these days. Mocking the government’s tall claims of ‘ease of doing business’, someone tweeted appropriately, ‘Ease of doing business is one matter, can I get certainty of doing business, no matter how hard?

P Krishna Kumar
Assistant Editor

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