Bhawani Shankar Dave, President of the Nagpur Hotel owners Association is clearly upset over the differential treatment local eateries seem to be getting in comparison with Mumbai and Pune restaurants.
” They are being very rigid with us, not understanding the peculiarity of Nagpur culture and behaviour. Who has dinner before 8 p.m. here? You have already forced a lockdown on us for the whole month. The fear of Corona has reduced our business by straight 50% across the board. And you won’t even allow parcel service after 8 p.m.? So the dinner time business is wiped out. I am sure such rigid timing is not being followed in Western Maharashtra where in the past too restaurants have been allowed to remain open the whole night!”
He has a valid point. Anyone who is familiar with the dining out scene of the city over the years has noticed that popular restaurants get filled up with dinner crowds around 11 p.m. That’s when Doctors close their clinics, traders and businessmen down their shutters and then go out with their families for late dinners. Corona may have changed business timings but its difficult for people to change their eating habits overnight! Thus parcel service also dwindles before it can even start in the evenings.
“We , hotel association, had co operated 100% with the administration and police during first lockdown beginning March 2020. We ran free food service for police personnel; we donated generously to langhars. Now we are facing bankruptcy ourselves.
Halat bahut kharab hai lekin koi sunvai nahi.”
Dave points out that during the initial fear all labour working in the hotel industry wanted to flee from here and go back to their respective native places.
” We were sympathetic to their sentiments and many of us got together and arranged special buses to take our employees to Rajasthan, M.P. of Chatiisgarh – wherever they were from. I myself had 10 employees, now I am down to just 3. ” ( Mr. Dave has two restaurants called Shri Ganesh Bhandar, one in Mahal serving full meals, and one in Cotton Market serving snacks like samosas which are popular with the working class.)
“But since bus service hasn’t resumed and traveling by trains is expensive as well as complicated even employees who want to return cannot do so. This had really hurt our business even when situation had become normal in the last 3 – 4 months before the 2nd wave of Corona hit.”
He understands the gravity of the epidemic since he himself had tested positive in January and had to be hospitalized too.
“We, of all business’ are most vulnerable since our customers have to remove their masks while eating. But we cannot stop service on that count. Its for the administration and govt to lay down clear policies and be strict about following laws. You shut our hotels but people continued crowding on main roads, bazar areas and other popular haunts without fear … and even without wearing masks. Only we were asked to follow ‘social distancing’ and keep our tables spread out! On the other hand, there are no measures like following odd even days for shops to open on either side of the road, or distancing between vegetable stands which would have thinned out crowds naturally. No imagination was used for crowd control.”
Confusion between administration and Rulers in Nagpur
“Even regarding this lockdown there were confusing and contradictory notice issued by NMC and Guardian Minister Shri Nitin Raut. He had conveyed that shops, hotels etc. would be allowed to remain open during fixed hours, which made us hopeful. But it did not happen and our hopes were dashed!”
That is why he says interests of Nagpur are neglected since the seat of the state government is in Mumbai and they are not very sensitive to conditions in Nagpur…or Vidarbha as a whole.
Mr. Dave also advises his fellow business men to avoid crowding even for parcel pick ups.
“Even before Corona, I used to follow the custom of asking my customers to place their food orders on Whatsapp. When their parcel was ready we would call and inform them. So we saved time on both sides.”
The President of the Hotels association says sagaciously that we all have to prepare for the long haul.
“This virus is not going to go away any time soon. We have to find smart solutions to cope with it and survive.”
Bhawani Shankar Dave in conversation with Sunita Mudaliar