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KCCI writes to LG Murmu as houseboats draft policy makes owners hearts sink

Choice menu, tea bags, uniforms for cooks and more 

SRINAGAR:  Houseboats not providing guests food of their choice may either have to shell out huge fines or risk cancellation of registration in Kashmir.

Under the new draft policy for houseboats, Jammu and Kashmir government has included stringent clauses evoking a sharp reaction from the stakeholders.


Feeling the heat, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has written to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu to defer draft policy for houseboats till the situation becomes conducive for holding free deliberations.

“That a perusal of the draft policy/guidelines reveal that the burden of action is wholly and solely put on the houseboat owners which has been linked to the grant of registrations and renewal of operating licenses… In view of the prevailing situation and the need to study various directions of the  High Court as well as the ecological concerns of the water bodies, the finalization of the Policy/Guidelines be deferred until the situation is conducive for holding free deliberations,” said Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, KCCI president in a letter to Lieutenant Governor.

Under the Draft policy, some of the actions required to be taken by the Houseboat owners include separate fuel storage, uniforms for cooks and service boys, at least one refrigerator or icebox, providing guests with a menu of their choice, arrangements for segregation of recyclable and non-recyclable waste, kitchens to be connected to bio-digesters, sufficient number of life jackets to be kept available in the Houseboat and shikara boat, emergency alarm button/system to be set up, electric kettle along with tea/coffee bags, sugar bags, milk powder, and bone china cups, bath tubs, LED Televisions, etc.

“That it needs to be put on record that in the pursuit of putting food on the family table, the houseboat owners have extended all possible cooperation and assistance in the implementation of various directions of the High Court and the Government. But when conditions such as providing of kitchen area made out of stainless steel/bone China, glassware made of again stainless steel/bone china or even providing guests with a menu of their choice are stipulated, it would understandably push them against the wall,” said Sheikh.
KCCI, he said,  is not aware of any star hotel or restaurant providing a free choice of menu, nor any facility run by the tourism department offering such facilities. 
“Such conditions imply the engagement of a Master Chef who would charge not less than Rs 4 to 5 lakhs per month to operate from the portable kitchen dwelling specified by the authorities. Very unlikely that such an expert chef would come to Kashmir under the present circumstances to work for a houseboat owner who is himself being provided with a relief of Rs 1,000 per month by the government, not to mention that every houseboat would be requiring one,” he said.
Sheikh said the operation of houseboats has a very limited season and most of the employees, in view of the nature of the business,  have to be ad hoc and not to mention other situational disruptions.
“No houseboat owner can afford to employ high salaried staff round the year and no professional would prefer ad hoc employment. The houseboat owners ask whether their registration would be canceled if they are unable to provide Mexican or Japanese or Russian food on demand?” he asked.