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Guwahati: A hotel near Lal Bazar flyover in Gangtok under Sadar police station of Sikkim witnessed high drama in the intervening night of Thursday and Friday when some of the employees of OYO Rooms were allegedly taken as hostage by a section of owners of its partner hotels over non-release of dues by the company for the past four to five months.

According to reports, four officials of OYO Rooms — identified as Subrata C, Surojit, Satya and Siddharth — were allegedly “locked up” in the basement of the hotel on Thursday night. Some of the hotel owners, who are yet to receive their dues from OYO, then rushed to the hotel and discussed the matter with these officials.

However, one of the officials of OYO who were inside the room alleged that they were not been forcibly kept inside but were told not to leave the premises till discussions over payment were over. “They have detained us in a room. We will be freed once the issues relating to payment of dues are resolved. No one is allowed to go out of the room,” the employee told this to a person, who did not wish to be named, over phone.

Whatsup messages sent by one of the ‘locked-up’ employees of Oyo Rooms in Gangtok, Sikkim on October 10 night

Several hotel owners in Gangtok alleged that despite numerous remainders, the management of the hotel chain has not paid them their dues. “Every time we request them, they always try to fool us by giving some unprofessional reasons. We will be forced to close down our business if we don’t get our money. We are not asking them to release 100% of the amount. At least, release some of it. However, OYO is refusing to listen to us,” some of the hotel owners told EastMojo.

Alleging that the authorities in OYO Homes & Hotels are continuously trying to avoid the hotel owners by giving false and misleading statements, the hotel owners here further alleged that initially the company management assured the hotel owners that they will release their dues by August 30. Then the date was extended to September 30. “Now, we are helpless. The overall dues have already crossed Rs 1 crore. They are not serious with us. The company is trying to mislead us. Today, too, these officials are saying that they don’t know anything as they are from the marketing team of the company,” sources said.

It has alleged that instead of releasing the dues to the hotels, the officials of the company were in Gangtok for the last couple of days allegedly to make a contract with other hotels.

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“It’s really unfortunate that the authorities in OYO Homes & Hotels are not giving attention to our requests. How will we run our business? Instead of releasing the dues, these officials of the company are trying to make arrangements with new hotels,” sources in the Sikkim Hotel and Restaurant Association told EastMojo.

Fed up of the situation, hotel owners in Sikkim are now planning to impose a “ban” on OYO if the company fails resolve their issue in a day or two.

Meanwhile, sources close to the hotel owners refused to claim it a detention but said that they were discussing some points relating to the payment of dues with the officials of OYO. Sikkim Police personnel also visited the site and claimed that the situation is “normal”. No allegations of detention of any person from any sources were reported till the filing of this report, police sources claimed.

OYO Rooms, too, has termed the allegations against the company as baseless and motivated. “We are a customer-first company, and are proud of our ability to make good quality hotels available to consumers at the right price point, and will not bow down to the unreasonable demands of vested interest groups, a majority of which are owners running competing properties, instigating and intimidating independent hotel owners associated with OYO, and creating false public uproar,” a company spokesperson said.

With regards to the incident in Gangtok on Thursday night, the spokesperson said that OYO has contractual agreements with all the hotel owners in India. “This is a commercial dispute and more of civil in nature and does not involve any criminal angle. Moreover, the contracts with hotel owners provide for arbitration whenever there are any commercial disputes. Hence detaining our employees without their consent is a criminal offence and OYO Hotels & Homes has taken a serious view of the same,” the spokesperson said, adding: “OYO hotels and Homes is committed to the safety and security of all its employees and shall take strong legal action against the concerned hotel owners.”

“We believe in addressing all the concerns of our hotel owners one-on-one and have institutionalised several initiatives in the past few months under the OYO Partner Engagement Network (OPEN) programme to ensure the success of our hotel owners through business advances for infrastructure upgradation, timely payments, enhanced engagement and recognition,” the spokesperson said, adding: “We will always think of our customers as our key stakeholders while ensuring thousands of owners associated with OYO are continuing to grow with us.”

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