Anantnag: The payments of five caterers who supplied food to people put in administrative quarantine here in Anantnag are held up for more than 3 months now, with the administration citing lack of funds.
The quarantine centers were set up in schools, colleges, hotels and other places soon after the coronavirus reached Kashmir. Travellers and people who tested positive for the virus or who had come in contact with Covid-19 positive patients were put into these quarantine centers, where they spent about a fortnight.
The district administration here in Anantnag, like elsewhere in the valley, hired some private caterers to provide food to the people confined in the quarantine centers.
“Initially, the payments came thick and fast and we also supplied the food without any hindrance,” a caterer among the five told Kashmir Reader, requesting not to be named.
He said the payments stopped more than three months ago. “The administration has to pay more than 3 lakh rupees to just me, and I am getting anxious with each passing day, for I owe money to people I got the supplies from,” the caterer said.
These caterers are small-time restaurant owners and the kind of money they have spent on supplying food to the quarantine centers might not seem huge but it is substantial to them.
What worries these people is that the quarantine facilities have now been shut by the government.
“We fear that the district administration might find it burdensome to pay the pending bills, especially as our services are no longer required. But our business has been suffering because of the regular visits we have to make to the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Anantnag to ask for our dues,” one of the caterers said.
Kashmir Reader talked to Assistant Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Anantnag, Ghulam Hassan Sheikh, who has been dealing with these caterers from day one. Sheikh said that initially around Rs 2 crore was earmarked and released for the purpose of providing food at the quarantine centers.
“The money was spent and then no further funds were released for the purpose, so the liabilities kept piling up,” Sheikh said, adding that the administration owes these caterers somewhere between 10 and 15 lakh rupees.
Sheikh said that he has recently discussed the issue with the Deputy Commissioner and he has been assured that the money has been sanctioned. “I have been told that the money will be released soon,” Sheikh told Kashmir Reader.