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Chandigarh’s B&B scheme runs into trouble

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Chandigarh : The bed and breakfast (B&B) scheme started with much fanfare here last September to give a boost to tourism has run into rough weather. Authorities say landlords are violating rules, while the landlords say the authorities are being influenced by hotel owners who do not want the scheme to succeed.

The Chandigarh administration has decided to restructure the scheme altogether after a high-level inquiry ordered Aug 5 to probe alleged violation of rules by landlords registered under this scheme.

“We have found certain violations and now onwards we have decided to make the rules more stringent so that there would be no room left for any kind of lapse. Everything will be properly restructured and fresh applications would be invited from the interested families,” Samwartak Singh, director of tourism, told IANS.

Twenty-five families were registered under the now-scrapped scheme, meant to offer a home ambience to tourists at a reasonable cost.

The landlords had been allowed to offer a maximum of five rooms and to charge Rs.700 a day for a room designated ‘silver’ and Rs.900 for a room designated ‘gold’, including breakfast.

“During the investigation, we found that some of the families have converted their houses into mini-hotels or guest houses. They were offering 10 to 12 rooms and were charging exorbitant amounts from the tourists,” said a senior official of the administration, requesting anonymity.

“We have issued notices to the violators and very soon legal action will be taken against them. We are planning to slap a hefty fine on the violators to set an example to others.”

In reaction, most of the families opted out of the scheme.

“The Chandigarh administration is working under the influence of a strong lobby of hoteliers. They have got only two complaints against us and both of them are from two leading hoteliers of the city,” Gulshan Lal Bhatia, one of the alleged violators, told IANS.

“I have the copy of guidelines with me but it is nowhere mentioned how much rent we can charge and how many rooms we can give on rent,” he added. “We have not violated anything. Instead, we have spent lakhs of rupees on renovating our houses to meet the demands of foreign tourists.”

Bhatia, who has opted out of the B&B scheme, said: “I am sure that nobody is going to apply afresh in this scheme if the administration does not change its attitude.”

Gaurav Dhir, an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, told IANS: “Members registered under this scheme are from respectable families and nobody wants unnecessary harassment. So we have voluntarily opted out of this scheme.

“It was quite embarrassing for us that without any prior notice officials inspected all the 25 houses in a single day, submitted their report in the evening and following it they are planning to slap a fine on us,” he said.

“We are responsible citizens, if they had any problem they should first communicate with us and we would have ourselves set everything right. But why are they behaving with us like we are hard-core criminals?”

Another landlord who has opted out of the B&B scheme said on condition of anonymity: “We have prepared a list of more than 500 violations committed by Chandigarh hotels, but nobody is paying heed towards it. They are focussing all their attention to close this scheme of the government of India that is aimed at facilitating tourism.”

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])