Fresh Centaur Hotel, Srinagar Bid Leaves Staffers In Despair, Distress

File photo of Centaur hotel

Srinagar- After years of controversial sale bids, leases and takeover attempts, the possession of the Centaur hotel on the banks of Dal-lake will be taken over by the J&K Government for an unprecedented time in the coming days.

Officials privy to the development said that the Government had been very keen to take over the possession of the Centaur hotel since early 2021. However, the official noted, the Lieutenant Governor had given an official nod for taking over the paramount property in the month of February this year.

However, the decision has irked the Centaur Hotel Employees, who fear that their livelihood will suffer if the Government takes over the famed hotel.

“Wednesday is the final date to vacate the hotel. As of now, we haven’t been informed about our future either by the HCI or by the Government. No government official is ready to meet us. We just want to seek assurance about our future. The only possibility in front of us is that once the Government takes over Centaur hotel, we employees will be made to fend for ourselves. No one will remember us,” said Farooq Ahmed Bhat, a representative of the Centaur Hotel employees Union.

Another representative of the employees said that an eviction notice is never in favor of Centaur employees. “We may lose our jobs. We’ve no issue with anyone taking over the possession of the hotel but only if we’re made part of it. However, if we’re left out of the deal then there will be consequences. We’ve a family to feed. Even the central Government has supported us but the state administration has been tight lipped on the matter,” the representative lamented.

For taking over the Centaur hotel, in March, J&K Government appointed Additional Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Faz Lul Haseeb as the estates officer for the procurement of the prime location under several laws including J&K Public Premises Act, 1988 which empowers the state Government to evict “unauthorized occupants”.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 3 of The Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises(Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1988 read with section 6 of The Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act and rule 7(K) of The Jammu and Kashmir Land Grant Rules, 1960, the Government hereby appoint

Faz Lul Haseeb, IAS, additional deputy commissioner Srinagar, as estates officer for the purpose of The Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises( Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1988 for taking over possession of the premises of Centaur Lake Hotel, Srinagar.” reads the notification, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer.

When Kashmir Observer contacted ADC Srinagar Faz Lul Haseeb, he refused to reveal any development into the issue noting that, “It’s a public holiday. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Pertinently, the Srinagar’s Centaur hotel is currently operating under the Hotel Corporation of India(HCI) which is a Public limited Company wholly owned by Air India Limited. Presently HCI operates only two Hotels, one each at Delhi and Srinagar under the brand name “Centaur”.

In May last year, the J&K government had constituted a five-member committee to negotiate with the Hotel Corporation of India (HCI) to take over the control of the hotel Centaur. “The committee shall finalize all details and modalities with the representatives of Centaur Lake View Hotel and HCI and come up with a concrete proposal for the consideration of the government.” reads the official order issued at that time.

If officials are to be believed then the deal between HCI and J&K Government has already ended with J&K Government acquiring all the possession rights of the hotel. However, the Government is yet to take over the daily running of the hotel and HCI is still looking after the daily functioning of the hotel for this week only.

It is also learnt that the UT government is keen to start upgradation and renovation of the five star property soon after the process of transfer and VRS is completed.

The hotel has played host to all important gatherings held in the state capital in the past few decades, including the Inter-State Council meeting chaired by former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Pertinently, in 2004, HCI decided to sell Centaur Lake View Hotel in Srinagar to the J&K government for a consideration of around Rs 55 crore. The state government was also expected to pay Rs 18.2 crore as outstanding dues to the HCI.

In 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir Government had also planned to submit a proposal to the civil aviation ministry for control of the Centaur hotel after a controversial deal was cancelled between the state-run airline’s subsidiary, HCI and Mumbai based hotel group, DB realty.

Similarly, in 2018, the erstwhile state government had said that they were getting back Centaur hotel from the hotel corporation of India limited. Former Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu at that time had said that the ministry of civil aviation had decided to transfer the Centaur hotel back to the state government and a written agreement between the two sides had also been finalized.

However, the state government never got the possession of the famed hotel.

Supreme Court Dismisses HCI Petition

The Supreme Court on Wednesday disposed of a petition filed by the Hotel Corporation of India(HCI) against the State of Jammu and Kashmir on termination of its lease given to the company to operate the Centaur hotel in central Kashmir’s Srinagar.

The counsel for the petitioner, HCI, said that the State government had terminated the 99-year lease of their hotel without giving a show cause notice. This action would render the employees of the hotel functioning on the banks of Dal lake unemployed, HCI said, reported Business Standard.

The apex court noted that it was not inclined to entertain the petition at this stage. However, it also said that petitioners will be able to make a representation before the appropriate authority or the Government Redressal Mechanism and also make a request to continue them for some time, so that it may not affect tourism.

“Such representation should be considered sympathetically and the larger interest should be kept in mind,” the court said.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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