By Tenzin Sangmo
Dharamshala, Dec. 5: The Establishments of Upper Dharamshala Hotels and Restaurants Association (UDHRA) saw a sliver of hope with the new high court order that the hotels and guesthouses closed since last year will be considered for operation provided they adhere to the plan norms.
The high court issued on November 19, under the New Development Plan (2018-35) of the country and town planning, also lifted the ban on electricity and water supply.
Last year, after an NGO reported hotels in Kasauli to NGT, the case escalated and ended up in ordered demolition. Dharamshala and Manali then came under the radar.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a statutory board founded in 2012 ordered Pollution Control (PCB) board to investigate the registration and permission status of establishments in Dharamshala after cases of deforestation, land encroachment, and unauthorized construction also cropped up.
A high court order dated 16th December 2017 saw more than 150 hotels, guesthouses and restaurants shutting businesses as their water and electricity supply was cut.
The closure had dimmed the night light in the town and affected the tourism industry with the number of possible footfalls affected by the drastic drop in available accommodation.
The hotels and restaurants association had hired a lawyer and appealed to the high court to include the establishments in the new development plan and to do away the core area restriction.
It was learned that in 2002, the then town planning commissioner declared the McLeod Ganj area a core area, which meant that the buildings can only be residential buildings of up to 2 story.
Rahul, proprietor of Krishna Hotel on temple road thinks that it was declared without careful consideration and consultation. “Later on, as people kept constructing and operating hotels, the government issued resources, even the excise and taxation department asked for tax, providing us Luxury Tax number.”
The core area label has now been taken out and now the 4+1 building is allowed.
The new court order also gave a one-month notice to the state government to think of penalty fees for the 150+ odd establishments. The state government has delegated its law department with the proposal.
However, the proprietors of the hotels believe that it will take longer than that. The government might request for an extension, as the proposal will have to be passed by the cabinet.
Among the many hotels that were closed include Tibetan run hotels and guesthouses like Norbu House, Chonor House and Zambala.
According to Tibetan settlement officer Dawa Rinchen, the establishments are being resupplied with the electricity and water in batches. The first batch included 43 establishments, followed by batches of 5s and 10s.