- Severe shortage of staff forces them not to accept full bookings
- Post-lockdown, workers find coffee picking, masonry more profitable
Kushalnagar: Since the last five to six days there has been a tourist boom in the hilly district of Kodagu but the hotels, resorts and home stay industry is finding it extremely difficult to handle tourist rush. Reason: Shortage of workforce mostly young men and women with education upto class 10 or PUC.
So much so that some of the resorts and home stays are not taking mass bookings but allowing minimum occupancy as they cannot provide the desired service to the guests. Most of the labour force working in these establishments has diversified into other professions like masonry, coffee picking and some have even started small-time business like tender coconut vending, vegetable and fruit selling.
The hospitality industry in Kodagu that had turned its back on migrant workers for more than six months now want them back. Sadly, the labourers are not coming back as they have found alternative means of living.
Unable to pay salaries
When the lockdown was imposed and economic activity came to a grinding halt, these workers emerged on the streets and they had nowhere to go. While some have gone to their native States never to come back, some have chosen other jobs. During lockdown, many resorts, hotels and home stays did not allow the workers into their premises and some did not even pay salaries.
Now, with no signs of the pandemic abating, they have flung their gates open, but few workers are trickling in. “We have had a deluge of bookings since the last four days and we have never been approached by tourists in this way since February last. Unfortunately we cannot cater to our guests as the six migrant workers who were here have gone back to Uttar Pradesh,” an IT professional in Mysuru who owns a home stay in Kodagu told Star of Mysore. She has requested anonymity.
Local workers present
There are over 800 registered home stays in Kodagu and over 60 hotels, resorts and tourist homes including small and big. They were primarily dependent on local workers for cooking as knowledge of Kodava cuisine and the skill to prepare is a mandatory criterion for a home stay or a resort. Other workers and support staff were from North Indian States, especially from Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Bengal.
Ratheesh, proprietor of Dubare Inn Resorts and Hotel said that during lockdown, he was not in a position to pay salaries for months together. “Now I am not getting workers despite tourist boom. Since the last three to four days, over 2,000 people are eating at my restaurant daily but there is a severe shortage of cleaners, suppliers and dish-wash employees. Somehow we are managing,” he said.
Coffee picking work more profitable
Many hotel, resort and home stay workers have diversified into coffee picking as now is the season in Kodagu and the returns are handsome. They get a wage of Rs. 500 per day if they work from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm, excluding 30 minutes of lunch break. Compare this with the work in resorts that starts at 6 am and goes on till 8 or 9 pm and the salary is at the most Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 per month.
The regular or permanent estate coffee pickers are paid Rs. 350 and annual bonus. They have a holiday on Sunday and are provided with rations too.
Pachchu, a resident of Sunti-koppa, was an accountant at a resort and was paid a salary of Rs. 8,000 per month. “I was sacked during lockdown and now I have taken up masonry and centring works. I get a minimum wage of Rs. 500 per day and I now take home Rs. 15,000 per month. This work is more convenient and my family is happy,” he said.
Paid half salaries, gave groceries
Cheeyanda Sathya who owns Ibni Spring cottage resort in Madikeri, however, is not facing any labour crisis as he took care of workers during lockdown. “I paid half the salary and supplied groceries to all the 10 staff. They have not left me and I am running the resort now with their help,” he said.
As per a report from the Kodagu Deputy Commissioner, before lockdown, there were over 5,000 migrant workers from North Indian and Western States. Over 1,000 to 2,000 workers were from districts of Hassan, Mysuru and Chikkamagalur. A part of the population was from Kerala. After lockdown was imposed, 90 percent of them retuned homes.
As it is a coffee season, some of the workers around the district like areas from Periyapatna, Hunsur, Boodithittu, Bettadapura, Avarthi, Kallahalli, Hampapura, Kampalapura and Panchavalli are coming to estates daily and they are being picked up and dropped back in vehicles by estate drivers.