Iconic hospitality brand shuts doors

Hotel Ashok revival stuck, no pay for 30 loyal staffers

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 31.03.18
GHOST ADDRESS: Hotel Ashok in Doranda, Ranchi, wears a deserted look on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi: Hotel Ashok, one of the early hospitality addresses to come up in Ranchi in 1988 as a joint venture between Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and the erstwhile Bihar government, stopped operations on Friday, not entirely an unexpected fallout since it had been running at a loss for years.

The closure, coming at a time when Jharkhand is trying to promote itself as a tourism destination, has cast a cloud of uncertainty on the future of over 30 staffers, many of whom have been associated with the hotel since inception.

"We haven't got our salaries for the last eight months," said a 50-year-old staff member. "What should we do? In the past, during various meetings at various levels, we were assured that we will be absorbed in the Jharkhand tourism department. What is this achche din our Prime Minister is talking about when we are all losing our jobs?" he added.

A revival of the hotel, spread over 7-8 acres near Jharkhand High Court in Doranda, with 30 rooms, two banquet halls and lawns, is mired in complications too.

The property has three stakeholders, namely, ITDC (51 per cent), Jharkhand (12.5) and Bihar the rest. Originally, Bihar owned 49 per cent stake but after the formation of Jharkhand, the stakes were split 3:1 following an inter-ministerial meeting under the chairmanship of principal secretary to the Prime Minister in 2004.

State tourism officials maintained that as per a cabinet decision of 2016, Jharkhand resolved to take over the loss-making Hotel Ashok. But, they blamed Bihar for not responding to requests for transferring its stake.

In December last year, then chief secretary Rajbala Verma had written to the Bihar government, but according to sources in both the state tourism department and Jharkhand State Tourism Department Corporation (JTDC), she did not receive a response.

"Jharkhand is ready to take over the hotel. ITDC wanted us to take over their 51 per cent stake and start operations as we too have 12.5 per cent stake. But the state government rejected this proposal. We have decided to move in only with 100 per cent control," said a tourism department official.

He said it made little sense to continue with the involvement of the Bihar government - read stake. "Bihar had agreed in principal to transfer its stake at a meeting in Delhi in2004. But, the actual transfer is yet to happen," he added.

The official said ITDC was in the process of appointing a transaction adviser for evaluating its 51 per cent stake.

"On this, too, we wrote a letter to Bihar, asking officials there to have their stake evaluated on the basis of parameters set by ITDC so that we can take over with 100 per cent stake. We are yet to get a reply on this too," he explained.

Another official, however, indicated that fresh efforts were being initiated to take control of the hotel, which, he added, was no less than a heritage property. The land on which the hotel stands has, therefore, been transferred to JTDC.