Even after six years of the Union Ministry of Tourism according sanction to set up the State Institute of Hospitality Management (SIHM), the institute is functioning inside a Yatri Nivas located within a government guest house compound here.

Now, faced with the prospects of losing crucial Central aid, the State government has finally issued orders for the formal takeover of land to set up the institute. Incidentally, SIHM is touted by the government as a major institute along the lines of the Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS) in Thiruvananthapuram and the Institute of Hospitality Management and Catering Technology at Kovalam offering courses in the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors in the State.

Sanction to set up the SIHM, at a cost of Rs.15.65 crore, was given way back in September 2007 by the Union Ministry of Tourism. The Centre promised to sanction Rs.10 crore and the State had to contribute Rs. 5.65 crore.

In June 2008, 6.19 acres of land under the possession of Kerala Soaps and Oils Limited at West Hill here was identified for the institute. The Tourism Department paid Rs.4 crore to Kerala Soaps within a few months towards a total land value of Rs.6.19 crore.

Following this the Tourism Department gained possession of the land and passed it on to the SIHM. Construction work also started on the institute after the Centre released Rs.8 crore.

However, and inexplicably, no move was made to transfer the title deed of the land from the Kerala Soaps management to the Tourism Department nor was the balance amount of Rs.2.19 crore paid. Thus the land remained in the possession of the Tourism Department even as its ownership continued untrammelled with the Kerala Soaps management.

A recent Government Order (GO) signed by Tourism Secretary Suman Billa explains why this status quo should not continue, and urgent steps need to be taken to transfer ownership of the land.

“Though the possession of the land has been handed over to the Department of Tourism, the title deed and other related documents have not been transferred to the Director of Tourism so far… Since the title of the land did not vest with the Tourism Department, a situation arose that if the transfer of land is not done the work will have to be stopped leading to losing of funds sanctioned by the Government of India,” the GO cautioned.

It was this caution which finally paid off and led to the sanction for the takeover, much to the relief of students of the SIHM.