Close on the heels of government’s move to implement phased alcohol prohibition in the state, the Kerala cabinet had recently approved a bill which sought to empower district authorities to fix prices in restaurant and hotels. Under the bill, regulatory authorities are to be set up at the district level.
Reacting strongly against such a regulatory order Shri Jose Mohan, President of Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA), the apex organisation of the Kerala Hospitality Industry told TNM that they would oppose the bill tooth and nail and even go to the extent of downing their shutters if the need arises, “Such a bill is discriminatory in nature, as it targets only the hotel industry. What about those who sell us fresh produce or other food items? Let the Civil Supplies Department too come up with a similar bill regulating the market price for all perishable goods. Till then, such a regulation is unacceptable to us.”
G Sudhiesh Kumar, a patron of KHRA, emphatically terms it a populist move by the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala and nothing more. “Do they even realise how the quality of the end-product would suffer with the introduction of this bill?” he asks, “Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had earlier reassured us sometime in June this year that such a bill would be brought in only after holding discussions with us. Now see what happened? If they keep targeting industries like this, it will lead to a complete shutdown.”
Kumar says that the government is going after sectors one after the other, “First, it was the construction industry, now it seems to be our turn to be victimized. How can they regulate our food prices without first controlling the prices of the commodities that we use in making food? Biriyani can be made using a Rs.60 per kilo type of basmati rice as well as with a Rs.160 per kg one. The taste differs. A painting by me or you cannot fetch the same market price as one of MF Hussain’s. Cooking is indeed a work of art. And depending on the quality of the ingredients used, the cost of a dish would vary. Even a layman would appreciate this fact. No one runs a business without a profit motive.”
Calling it a highly impractical move by the government, Dr. Biju Ramesh, Chairman and Managing Director of the Rajadhani Group of hotels says, “The bill cannot be passed in its present form. It’s simply not practical. All eateries apart from star and heritage hotels would be affected, as the government provides no subsidy to these hotels for electricity usage, rental charges etc. The price fixed by hotels for various items on the menu is not based on the dish alone. The surroundings in which it is served, the facilities that come with it, the trained staff that wait on the customers…all these overhead costs burn a hole in the entrepreneur’s pocket. Unless the government decides to standardize the rates of all raw materials across the board, how can any hotelier agree to such unreasonable terms?”
With talks held with the Chief Minister to work out an amicable solution to this quandary seemingly at a deadlock, the KHRA has now scheduled a meeting of its members at 1400h on Friday to discuss the same and will officially issue a statement registering their protest in this regard.
Image source: Seatrr blog