Twenty-one months after 26/11, the heritage palace wing of the Taj Mahal hotel will reopen to guests again in a couple of days with a new name, The Taj Mahal Palace.
On August 15, the country's first luxury hotel will reopen with 285 rooms, 19 themed suites, said Raymond Bickson,
Fund for victims hit by disaster
H.N. Srinivas, senior vice president, human resources and in-charge of the Tata Trust Fund
How does the Tata Trust Fund help survivors and families of the victims of the attacks?
We were not interested in giving a one-time sum to the families, but in their rehabilitation. A team of counsellors, psychiatrists and social workers from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences spent several months tracking the families of all victims and assessing their individual needs. We identified 150 families to whom we still pay a monthly sum ranging from Rs 7,000 - 10,000. We are also supporting education of 60 children who were in trauma after the attack.
How much has the Trust spent on rehabilitation?
Intially, we collected Rs 5 crore from Tata companies, other donors and the Taj itself. This sum has grown since then.
Will the Trust continue once families are rehabilitated?
The fund has been set up for those affected by disasters. We have used it for Bihar floods and now for the relief work in Leh.
"Two years ago, our world was torn apart. Yet our staff, the hotel and this city stood strong and brave," said Bickson, who stated that the re-christening was a means of commemorating the efforts of the Taj to rise beyond the tragedy.
Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata arrived briefly at the press conference to address members of the staff, who assembled along the banisters of the grand staircase beneath the dome to take an oath of courage and shower rose petals on him.
"This is a very special occasion for this company as this memorable old lady is going to reopen the splendour it has upheld for a century," said Tata.
The newly restored Taj will include two suites that will be launched at the end of September — the Ravi Shankar suite where George Harrison had taken sitar lessons from the Indian maestro, and the 5,000 sq ft Tata suite.
The hotel will also now offer private butler services to all guests in the Palace wing.
Anil Goel, executive director of finance for the group,
said that the Taj spent a total of Rs 175 crore for restoration work. They have filed an insurance claim of Rs 180 crore towards loss of property covering a period of 12 months since the attack, and have absorbed the losses faced in the seven additional months they have taken to restore.
"We are flooded with inquiries for bookings from all old guests and customers, including many who were present in the hotel during the attack," said Ajoy Misra, senior vice president, sales and marketing.