Anantnag: Several small-time caterers and restaurant owners who supplied food to people kept in administrative quarantine at the peak of the pandemic last year will have to wait another year to get their dues cleared by the administration, here in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, as Covid-19 funds have dried up.
The payments of these caterers have remained held up for more than six months now, though some partial payments have been made by the district administration.
Administrative quarantine centers were set up across Kashmir, in schools, hotels, colleges and other places to keep travellers, Covid-19 positive people and ones who had come in contact with them in isolation.
The district administration in Anantnag had tasked some small-time caterers or restaurant owners to arrange meals for people kept in these quarantine centers.
“We did that, despite the fact that we had to take loans to fulfil the demand, for we had been out of work for more than a year when the pandemic struck,” a caterer among these told Kashmir Reader, requesting not to be named.
He said that the payments came thick and fast initially but then the quarantine centers were done away with and the payments also stopped.
“In November last year, the district administration owed me around 3 lakh rupees, and it had been three months since I was last paid. Subsequently, a payment of around Rs 1 lakh was made in December. The rest is still stuck with the administration,” another caterer, a restaurant owner, told Kashmir Reader.
He said that he has been visiting the Deputy Commissioner’s office on regular basis and despite assurances from the officials, nothing seems to be moving.
“I owe money to people I took raw material from. They are asking me to clear the bills and I am not able to. This has affected my business severely as people are now wary of supplying raw material even for my restaurant. It has dented my reputation in the market,” the restaurant owner said.
Sources in the district administration told Kashmir Reader that initially 2 crore rupees were earmarked and released for providing food and other things at these quarantine centers.
“The money was released towards these caterers but then the funds dried up. After the 2 crore rupees, the district administration has received almost no money for clearance of dues,” the source in the district administration said.
Kashmir Reader talked to Assistant Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Anantnag, Ghulam Hassan Sheikh, who has been dealing with these caterers from day one. He said that the rest of the money to these people will be released next year.
“We had recently received some 15 lakh rupees and that has been allotted to the officials concerned. If anything remains after that, those dues will be cleared next year,” Sheikh said.
Asked why the administration was being harsh on these small-time caterers who stood by the administration in testing times, Sheikh said that the issue was beyond his jurisdiction.