SRINAGAR: At a time when there is huge demand for enhancing retirement age of state government employs from 58 years to 60, Hotel Corporation of India – a government of India enterprise and subsidiary of Air India Ltd – that runs Centaur Lakeview Hotel here, has lowered superannuation age back to 58 years after enhancing it to 60 few years back.
The decision will affect 287 remaining employees of Centaur Hotel here, who see this as a move of great injustice and a precursor of HCI’s aim to privatize the hotel.
President of the Centaur Hotel Employees Union (CHEU), Javed
Pandit termed this move as gross injustice to the employees who have been on the receiving end since long as most of their demands for wage enhancement and other emoluments have been sidelined by the authorities.
Pandit said that they recently met the Civil Avation Minister Ajit
Singh to press for their demand of wage enhancement and transfer of the ownership of the hotel to Jammu and Kashmir government instead of any private party.
“Ironically the retirement age has now been reduced and we received communiqué few days back regarding the GoI cabinet decision about the rollback of retirements age of current employees,” Pandit told Kashmir Reader.
The HCI under Staff Notice has communicated about this directive vide Letter no AV18050’03/2010 to all the employees of HCI are informed that from March 2014 the age of retirement of 60 years as currently applicable to all the employees of the company shall be rolled back to 58 years.
Pandit said that the latest move has hurt the employees and they have always tried to raise their voice against the discriminatory policy of the officials, though it has been muzzled time and again.
He said that the employees of the hotel have been fighting for the wage revisions and that was due in 2007 and 2011, as they have to remain satisfied with the wage structuring that took place in 1990’s.
The employees say that privatization move is being opposed as they feel that the hotel can be profit making entity given it has got a sound management to run the affairs and not be dependent New Delhi.
HCI was formed in 1971, after the Air India decided to enter the hotel industry in 1980’s AI got the lease for 17 acres of land Cheshmasahi alongside the Dal lake to built the hotel that became operational in 1983 having 450 employees. In 1990s, when tourism here got a setback, the Centaur’s business did not get affected as it was occupied by the officials from the central banks and government of India offices used it for accommodation.
As a disinvestments move the 317-room Juhu, Mumbai hotel of Centaur was sold to Tulip Hospitality Services Private Ltd for Rs 153 crores in March 2002 and in April 2002, Airport Centaur was sold to Batra Hospitality Private Ltd for Rs 83 crores.
However, CAG’s later observes have brought into focus the controversial nature of the sale of government stake in two hotels owned by the Hotel Corporation of India (HCI), and criticize the role of former Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie, over his role in the privatization of two five-star hotels during his tenure in the
Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
In 2010 HCI decide to privatize the Srinagar Hotel, with M/s BD&P
Hotels (India) Pvt. Limited emerging as a lone contender for the take over.
However the employees and PIL in the courts here challenged this take over with J&K government later convening since the land was leased to the company by the state government, the management contract was not feasible. Hence, after approval of the Board of Directors, Management Contract Agreement was terminated effective 26.09.2011.
Currently, HCI operates two hotels — one each in Delhi and Srinagar under the brand name Centaur — and two flight kitchens in Delhi and Mumbai under the brand name Chefair.