Master franchisee to take over all spots
Srinagar: The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has asked all the local shopkeepers at the Srinagar airport to vacate the shops within three to six months, including those whose contract is still valid for next two years.
The move comes, as AAI plans to handover all the shopping spots in the airport to a master franchisee – a non-state subject.
The enraged shopkeepers, who received the eviction notices, say the move hits the livelihood of at least 100 people.
“The livelihood of around 100 people is dependent on the shops housed at Srinagar airport,” Adil Hussain Khan, who owns handicrafts shop at the airport told Kashmir Reader.
“Now the airport authority has told us to evict the shops and served us notices. It will render persons working there jobless”.
Khan, who is also the vice president of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurants Association (KHARA), said the airport authority at Srinagar served eviction notices even to those shop owners whose contracts were valid for the next two years.
The airport houses food joints, handicrafts and flower shops which were so far owned by Kashmiris, he said.
“They have asked some to evict shops by three months, and some by six months,” Khan said. “They have even put caveats in the high court so that nobody brings a stay against the arbitrary decision to shunt us out.”
The shopkeepers said the AAI has tendered all the shops to the master franchise, Deviani foods, after he paid the “inflated amount” as tender money.
“AAI usually announced tenders for the shops. We used to participate in them,” another shopkeeper, who owns a food joint, said. “This year they said the bidding applicant should have a turnover of six crore. How can we be in the race?”
He said they are helpless and have to look for other jobs.
“We have suffered a lot since 2014 due to unfavourable circumstances,” the shopkeeper said. “Now the AAI has come with this draconian step. We are in a fix. We have to fire our staff. All of us have to look for new means of sustaining our lives. It is sheer injustice”.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has already expressed resentment on the eviction notices served to the shopkeepers at the airport.
“The KCCI has made it clear that the KCCI will oppose any such move tooth and nail which is against the interest of the local entrepreneurs,” the chambers stated.
AAI, state director, Srinagar, Sharad Kumar said that they have not evicted the shopkeepers, but asked them to leave as their contracts were over.
“We are reviving our food joints and shops located at airports which cater to 1.5 million passengers annually,” Kumar said. “AAI selected 11 airports for the purpose which includes Srinagar as well. AAI has already upgraded airports at Calcutta, Chennai and now Indore Bhopal, and Lucknow are being upgraded”.
He said the AAI will bring new master franchise to provide world class services to the customers.
Asked why the Kashmiri shop owners were evicted despite having valid contracts, Kumar claimed their contracts had expired.
“Also there is a provision in our contract that if one party disagrees to the existing terms and conditions, it can break the contract. So contracts can be broken,” he said.