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Small hotels must abide by standards for client loyalty

THE Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) has issued notices to owners of small hotels – hotels or guest houses with less than 10 rooms – to obtain its consent to operate within 30 days. The notice has been issued in accordance with the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The GSPCB has placed the small hotels, whose number is about 3,000, under non-polluting or green category as they have neither a kitchen nor a laundry. They cater mostly to middle income and lower income group tourists and are registered under the Registration of Tourist Trade Act 1982. Though most of these small hotels have been operational for years their owners have not taken consent to operate from the GSPCB which is mandatory under law. The GSPCB has warned the owners that they would attract a fine of Rs 2,000 a year or 50 per cent of the fees, whichever is higher, in case they fail to comply with its direction to get its consent to operate.

The NGT has made GSPCB consent essential in order to keep the small hotels under regulation for maintaining pollution standards. Though the law has existed for a long time requiring small hotels to get consent to operate from the pollution authorities, it was not enforced. It was only when it came to the notice of the NGT that the tribunal issued directions to the GPSCB to enforce the provision. The NGT has directed the GPSCB to revisit and revise the penalty in case the hotel owners do not comply, so that higher fine serves as deterrence against continued violations. It is possible that some of the owners of small hotels were not aware about the need to obtain consent of the pollution board. However, now that the GSPCB has given them 30 days to obtain its consent, they should not use any excuse to avoid applying for it. If they have nothing to hide, why should they worry about it? They should be happy to fulfill the requirements and avoid paying penalties.

With everyone wanting a share in Goa’s tourism pie, thousands of small hotels have sprung up without caring to comply with regulatory standards. Several of them have one or more political patrons to reach out to in case any regulatory authority sends them a notice. Illegalities abound and persist in the process, as any strict enforcement of rules is successfully stonewalled with politicians’ help. There is hardly any control over their functioning. Some owners take advantage of the lack of regulation to allow their rooms to be used for patently illegal purposes, such as prostitution. They do not keep proper records of visitors in spite of several reminders by the police department and district authorities. The conditions of a number of them are not up to standards. They are lacking in cleanliness, hygiene and security. All the concerned authorities – the GSPCB, the district authorities and the police – need to compel the owners of small hotels to comply with the legal requirements for the sake of reducing risks to the physical health and security of life of tourists and residents.

The owners of small hotels must take steps on their own in order to claim to be responsible entities. If they adhere to the laws, the officials of various departments would not need to visit their premises or issue them notices to make them do so. If they have any grievance about processes they are free to take this up with the concerned authorities. As long as they are law-abiding, the authorities would be willing to accommodate their concerns. However, if they do not fulfill the legal requirements, if they think they can flout rules with political patronage, they might be harming their interests, as sooner or later the regulatory authorities will catch up with them. The owners of small hotels should not look upon the GSPCB notice for obtaining consent for operation as impediment to business. They should see it as an opportunity to make their hotel stand out from the rest for hygiene and pollution control, to build up their place as a small brand.

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