With a spurt in illegal hotels coming up around the Golden Temple, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation has finally woken up and initiating measures to check the illegal mushrooming of hotels. As the issue continues to boil and the civic body struggles to detect lapses on its part, Hindustan Times questions Municipal Commissioner DPS Kharbanda, who faces a tough job as the number of illegal establishments is too large.
HT: How far is the municipal corporation responsible for the prevailing state of affairs as far as the mushrooming of illegal hotels around the Golden Temple is concerned?
Municipal commissioner: Illegal hotels around the Golden Temple did not surface in a few days. These structures came up over a period of time. The MC officials and authorities were aware of the development, but in view of the enormity of the issue, a lot more was required on their part to prevent these hotels from coming up. As far as the MC officials are concerned, responsibility has already been fixed in this regard. Officials who allowed the hotels to be constructed have been charge-sheeted.
HT: If the authorities and officials were aware of the mushrooming of illegal hotels, why was the issue not tackled earlier?
Municipal commissioner: The MC authorities and officials concerned were aware of the development. Several unauthorised buildings were demolished in the past and recently as well. The MC has conducted a survey on illegal hotels, besides issuing notices to the owners of these structures.
HT: What are the illegalities and what action is likely to be taken against these illegal hotels?
Municipal commissioner: A number of these hotels have come up in violation of the Punjab and Haryana High Court directives. They don't have sanctioned building plans, while a few others have failed to comply with the norms and don't have proper parking space. Some structures have also encroached upon footpaths, while others lack registration under the Sarai Act. Action will be taken against them as per the law.
HT: Why and how did the issue of illegal hotels emerge?
Municipal commissioner: Being an important religious and tourist hub of Punjab, Amritsar receives a daily rush of more than 1.5 lakh tourists and devotees. All these visitors have to be accommodated. While some tourists prefer to stay in five-star and three-star hotels, others look for cheaper accommodations. Devotees prefer to stay at places near the Golden Temple. These hotels came up in response to the need generated by the immense tourism potential of the city. Whatever the reason may be, it does not justify the trend of opening hotels in every nook and corner of the city.