Amritsar, Punjab: Though the sword of sealing hangs on the illegal hotels, guest houses and inns falling in the surroundings of the Golden Temple, the attention is focused on the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which will hear the case tomorrow.
The hoteliers are taking the plea that their properties could be regularised on the lines of other holy cities like Hardwar and Banaras.
Around 125 hotels and guest houses in the surroundings of the Golden Temple are observing closure to protest against the move to close their businesses as the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court had termed them as illegal and not complying with the stipulated building bylaws.
The century-old walled city area was under mix-land use where both commercial and residential premises mushroomed with the passage of time, yet these premises never complied with the Building Bylaws of 1997, which were later revised in 2010. A local resident had filed a petition in the high court while challenging their operations.
On the other hand, the hoteliers admitted that some commercial units came up with permission and some without permission, but this had helped the ever-increasing number of visitors to the holy city, who come up to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and looked for cheap and convenient accommodation.
Besides, these units have also become a source of livelihood to over 60 families, who had passed through the period of militancy in the state and, with no other option left, had converted their residential premises into commercial use by accommodating visitors. Apart from this, 4,000 persons are directly involved as supporting staff in running these small hotels and guest houses.
The affected hoteliers said that the local civic authorities had devised a one-time settlement policy to regularise the so-called illegal hotels, guest houses and inns, but the “harsh” move of SIT to seal them was condemnable and contradictory. The SIT report was “biased” and “discriminatory”. It never objected to big hotels in the Civil Lines area. Even the high court was being misled by some disgruntled elements, they added.
President of Federation of Hotel and Guest House Association of Amritsar Surinder Singh said that accommodation close to shrines was not new in India. “It existed for long and it still exists in Hardwar, Katra, Jammu, Allahabad, Banaras, Nasik, Puri and so on. Amritsar was not an exception in this context. We are dependent on the high court’s mercy,” he said.
Patron of the federation JS Wadhwa appealed to the government and the SIT to abstain from any such action, which could destroy the livelihood of thousands of families.
“In this critical hour, we will just wait and watch as we do not want to spoil the peace of the holy city by staging mass protests. We have been observing an indefinite closure of our hospitality units in a peaceful manner,” he said.