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NRAI delegation e-meets FM Nirmala Sitharaman to express industry concerns

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Within a few days of the announcement of the economic stimulus package wherein the hospitality sector did not receive any specific relief despite widespread speculation, a four-member delegation of NRAI had a meeting with FM Nirmala Sitharam yesterday to discuss urgent industry-specific issues. Apart from the minister, the meeting was also attended by the Secretary-Economic Affairs Dept and the revenue secretary. NRAI delegation comprised of its president Anurag Katriar; Trustees – Riyaaz Amlani and Rahul Singh and prominent restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee.

While appreciating the hard work being done by the Union Govt, the delegation spoke about the core issues impacting the sector due to Covid-induced lockdown. All these issues were largely around policy and liquidity support; none of the suggested measures being expected to put any major strain on the exchequer. The key issues discussed were as follows:

Employment Support: Request for unemployment pay support for our lower-end employees through ESIC corpus. Out of approximately 3.20 crores beneficiaries of the ESIC scheme, over 50 Lakh belong to the hospitality sector. (Policy cum Liquidity Support)

Working Capital Support: Request was made to make available urgent working Capital support at the lowest possible interest, as close to the repo rates, with a six-month moratorium for the Restaurant Industry. (Liquidity support)

Force Majeure towards rent: It was expressed that the current pandemic is one of the worst human crisis ever, and the event should, therefore, be declared as force majeure. This is similar to the invocation of force majeure made in the Real Estate sector. (Policy cum Liquidity support)

E-commerce support: The delegation apprised the Minister and the officers that how these modern-day digital landlords are hurting the interests of lakhs of small and large entrepreneurs in the sector. It was requested that an immediate clarification bringing them under the ambit of Press Note-2 of the Commerce ministry of December-2018. A proposal to regulate and cap platform-led discount & commission was also made (Policy support)

GST: Request for allowing an option to avail Input Tax Credit (ITC) on GST for the Restaurant Industry was repeated again. Proposal was made to have dual rates, current 5% for those not availing ITC and 12% for those availing ITC. (Policy support)

Refund of pending Income Tax dues: Request was made to expedite the refund for all pending tax claims at the earliest. (Liquidity support)

Speaking on the meeting, Katriar said “I profusely thank the Hon’ble Finance Minister for granting us a patient audience of over half an hour despite her busy schedule. It is a testimony of her serious intents that she was accompanied by two key Senior Secretary-level Officials of the Ministry in the meeting. We conveyed to them that we are fighting a grim battle for our existence and we will need urgent policy and liquidity support from the Govt to survive this phase. We informed them that if we fail to do so, it may lead to massive job losses in the sector. Each issue was discussed in detail and she has promised to look into all of these issues at the earliest. She also gracefully offered to hold a more detailed meeting at a later date.”

He further added, “While we profusely congratulate and thank the Govt for their herculean efforts in addressing the issues of the Agriculture sector, we also requested them to look at our sector, which is second only to Agriculture in employing human capital. The Minister and the Officials were also appreciative of the fact that the sector will need urgent policy support to come back to its feet and regain vibrancy in the long run. I am very confident that this meeting will accrue some positive outcome for the sector in times to come.”

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