Friday, August 28, 2015

Two months on, home stay review panel yet to visit Gir

AHMEDABAD: It has been more than two months since the state tourism department formed a committee to review alleged irregularities in granting permission to guesthouses and farmhouses to operate as home stay in and around Sasan Gir but the panel is yet to visit these areas. These establishments continue to find mention as home stay units on the tourism corporation's website.

Sources said that the tourism department had directed the committee to contact forest department officials and then review the permits. However, the committee has neither discussed the issue with forest officials nor visited the locations to review the permits as yet.

A senior officer from the tourism department said that the committee was an eyewash as there was pressure from senior BJP leaders not to cancel the permits. Officials said that a majority of those given permission were close to senior BJP leaders from the area.

Earlier this year, the tourism department had given permission to 55 farmhouses and guesthouses on the periphery of the Gir sanctuary to offer home stay services. However, it is not clear whether the permits granted were legal as the Gujarat high court had declared many of these farmhouses illegal because they were earlier being used as hotels.

Sources in the department said that these farmhouses do not qualify for approval under the home stay policy. According to the policy, the owner of a home stay unit has to stay on the premises but this is not the case with most of these farmhouses. So such permission is illegal under the policy, they added. Of the 55 establishments given approval, 52 are in Sasan while three are in Junagadh district.

A senior officer said that the department has ordered the review by the same agency which had carried out the inspection while granting the home stay permission. He questioned as to how the same agency would say that their earlier inspection was wrong.

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