by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Sept 09
Business Standard, 5th Sept 09
Guests at New Delhi’s tony Taj Palace Hotel who come across army officers in their smart olive greens trooping through the foyer need have no apprehensions of a security alert. The army officers are more likely to be fellow-guests. An agreement between the Indian Army and Taj Hotels provides rooms at sharply reduced rates to mid-rung and senior army officers.
According to the agreement, generals will be entitled to rooms in the Taj Palace for Rs 5000/- per day. Brigadiers, colonels and lieutenant colonels visiting the capital, can stay, two officers to a room, by paying Rs 3000/- per day each.
That is exactly the amount the government pays as daily allowance (or DA, in government parlance) for officers of these ranks while visiting Delhi on temporary duty.
A letter from the army’s Additional Director General for Administration and Coordination informs all army officers that this agreement is valid from 15th August 09. Army officers staying at the Taj Palace Hotel will also be entitled to a buffet breakfast, tea and coffee facilities in their rooms, use of the hotel fitness centre, swimming pool and Jacuzzi and welcome drinks. As a final sweetener, they can get their uniforms ironed for free.
Sanjukta Roy, Director of Public Relations for Taj Hotels, told Business Standard, “This price slab has been offered as a gesture of gratitude to the army that serves the nation. Taj has the prerogative to decide its room prices. It also has the prerogative to offer varying prices for different segments.”
The hotel's rack or card rate is about $350 (roughly Rs 17,500/-) a night, though most tariffs and usually subject to negotiation.
The air force and the navy are not a part of this arrangement.
With army mess rooms in New Delhi hard to come by, accommodation at the Taj Palace Hotel will be welcome relief to mid-seniority officers who visit on temporary duty. And for the Taj Group, the dozens of officers moving in and out of the capital on temporary duty, will facilitate high room occupancy.
Army officers explain that this arrangement with Taj Hotels materialised after the Sixth Pay Commission raised the daily allowance for travelling officers’ accommodation, aligning it closer with market rates for quality hotels.
A room in an army mess, when available, comes fully equipped with staff, services and meals, but mess accommodation in Delhi is near impossible to obtain. Before the Sixth Pay Commission, DA was far below the tariff for a suitable hotel room, leaving visiting officers with few decent choices.
Following the Sixth Pay Commission, a letter dated 23rd Sept 2008 from the Additional Director General for Administration and Coordination raised the DA almost three-fold. Lieutenant colonels, colonels and brigadiers were granted a DA entitlement of Rs 3000/-; Major generals and above get a DA of Rs 5000/-; and majors and below, with a DA entitlement of just Rs 1500/- continue to have few accommodation options.
For military officers, who mounted a heated campaign for higher pay and allowances in the Sixth Pay Commission, this agreement with Taj Hotels goes some way towards alleviating perceptions that their status was being steadily eroded. However, officers point out, this arrangement is so far restricted to just one hotel in one city. Officers also complain that their allowances for meals and transport are unrealistically meagre. Their food entitlement in New Delhi is just Rs 300/- per day; in smaller cities and towns it is correspondingly reduced.