HRA Suggests Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Exempt Payment Rather than Spending Funds of Government Exchequer

Port Blair, July 7: The Government of India has been taking proactive steps to protect the precious human lives during the COVID-19 pandemic along with saving the vast population from the crisis of survival. While all efforts are being made to save lives from COVID-19, the attention of the Government was invited towards the largest employment providing industry, ‘The Tourism Industry’ of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, which has suffered a major loss especially with the second wave hitting hard.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the President of the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Sanjay Choudhury said, “Today we have a feeling of isolation, must be for a reason that the country is pre engaged in facing and handling the pandemic. But at the same time we are struggling to earn our bread and survive”.

Choudhury through his letter has placed before the Prime Minister certain points which he felt would be a great relief to the tourism industry of the islands, and will help its revival in a holistic way, if considered.

He said that a good number of young entrepreneurs have availed loans to build hotels of different categories in Port Blair and other parts of the islands. During 2020 the government has extended moratorium to the loans for 6 months but the arrival of second wave did not allow anyone to recover from the crises. I humbly request a further moratorium may be granted to all the pending loans.

A relief by exempting the interest on the loans, finance availed for the period involving lockdown either by the central government or the administration. The government may come out with a budgetary provisions to meet the said relief and pay to the banks in return. For the small loans the total amount and for higher loans a maximum limit may be decided by the government.

All loans including those became bad or non-performing assets may be restructured with fresh repayment schedule and options.

Hundreds of unemployed youths have purchased tourist transport vehicle, tourist boats under different schemes of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Khadi Gram Udyog etc. These beneficiaries are struggling to survive. To save them similar steps to exempt interest, reschedule the loans can be initiated to revive the sector.

Port charges or any other charges taken by the port management board, applicable to the small boats, water sports boats, cruise boats etc may be exempted for the total lockdown period.

The unavoidable expenses, mainly the water and electricity charges of the hotels and restaurants may be exempted for the period of lockdown declared either by the central government or administration  by making budget provision for the same.

Property tax on the hotels and restaurants may be exempted for the year 2020& 2021( 2 years). The calculation of tax is linked with the value of the property having no concern with the income. Since there is no income generated I request you to exempt the same for the said period of pandemic.

The excise being charged on bars and hotels (as applicable) should be charged in exact proportion for the period of the license to operate is granted.

The government is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that maximum population of the country is vaccinated. This is more important for the islands as the total economy is dependent on the tourism, thus vaccination will protect the people involved and also increase the confidence of the tourists visiting the islands. I request and suggest that special vaccination drive may be arranged for the islands so that by September or before Dussehra (Beginning of tourist season) total population may be vaccinated and the islands may be called “VACCINATED DESTINATION”.

On the spot registration should be in place along with online registration throughout the islands considering the poor internet connectivity.

Medical experts, Pandemic experts and public health specialists may be roped into manage the pandemic with micro planning and to strengthen the present team in the field. This will help the islands to reopen at the earliest without much of health risks to the visiting tourists.

Many states in the country have already declared tourism as an industry so that this sector can be treated as a priority in terms of various areas like charges, taxes, sanctioning finance and many more. I request that tourism may be declared as an industry in the islands and all benefits as applicable to the MSME sector may be extended to the tourism sector too.

Charges/entry fees etc for different tourist spots should be unchanged considering the pandemic situation.

Regular flights should be allowed to operate with passengers carrying negative Covid test report and conducting mandatory Covid test on arrival at Veer Savarkar International airport.

This is a common practice of the airlines that whenever there is a rush, the airfare is increased to exorbitant price which results in drop of tourist inflow. I request that a maximum fare cap must be fixed for all the airlines operating from different sectors in different period.

Central government along with different state government should plan a publicity campaign to promote the islands tourism through electronic media, print media, participation in fairs, marts and road shows considering the field situation of the pandemic.

“It is a landmark decision of the government to allow first five lakhs foreign tourists without visa charges to visit India, said Choudhury hoping that handling of the situation will ensure a big number of tourists to visit the islands. He said that the demands and suggestions put forth are mostly to exempt payments by the players in the sector rather than spending funds from government exchequers. “I am sure government will understand that this sector provides maximum employments and capital generation”, the President, Hotel & Restaurant Association of Andaman & Nicobar Islands added.