* Hotel Ashok, Ranchi Entry Gate carries its own billboard.

You’ve never met ghosts as famous as the ones that haunt the Hotel Ashok in Ranchi. The official residence of the Commandant of the Bihar Armed Police -1 was demolished to build this hotel over four decades ago. 

The hotel, built on a 2.7-acre plot in Ranchi’s Doranda locality, was opened under a joint venture of the then Bihar government and India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC )under Ranchi Ashoka Bihar Hotel Corporation Limited (RABHL), a company formed in 1983.

Many movie stars tended to live there for long stretches of time. Today, bushes and trees have grown. It’s a single woody stem, from which branches grow to form a crown. 

The branches of shrubs arise at ground level, forming a crown without a stem. But what's truly going on at Hotel Ashok in Ranchi, capital city of Jharkhand?

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*Old billboard of Hotel Ashok, Ranchi stands inside its boundary wall

To understand this we need to look deeper at the legal fight prompting a woody plant growing as a tree or shrub inside the Hotel Ashok. Hotel Ashok in Ranchi had stopped all its operations on April 5, 2018. 

A joint venture between Indian ITDC and the erstwhile Bihar government, the hotel had opened in Ranchi in 1988 and had been running at a loss for years. The property had three stakeholders, namely, ITDC (51 per cent), Jharkhand (12.5), and Bihar the rest. 

Originally, Bihar owned 49 per cent stake but after the formation of Jharkhand, the stakes were split 3:1 following an inter-ministerial meeting under the chairmanship of the principal secretary to the Prime Minister in 2004. Around 30 staff of the hotel, who were not given their salaries for the past eight months, have lost their employment. 

Most of them have been associated with the hotel since its inception. Earlier the government had promised that they would be absorbed in the Jharkhand tourism department. 

This did not happen. However, no such information has been given to them until now. The hotel is spread over 7-8 acres with 30 rooms, two banquet halls and lawns, and is located near Jharkhand High Court in Doranda. 

ITDC on November 24, 2020, had signed an agreement with the Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) to transfer its 51 percent stake in the hotel for Rs 10 crore. The official said that Rs 6 crore was for purchasing 25,000 shares and Rs 4 core for outstanding liabilities of this ten crore. 

Since the Hemant Soren government came to power in 2019, its effort has been to get this 3-star hotel under the state government's ownership. Despite completing all the formalities, including depositing money, the Soren government has not yet got the hotel's ownership. 

*A view of the old building of Hotel Ashok covered by bushes and trees

Chief Minister Hemant Soren is on record having told the assembly soon after coming to power in 201,” A central minister had told me that he would physically hand over the hotel's key. For this, he needed to do a cabinet meeting. It seems the cabinet meeting did not occur in more than a year. 

The hotel is turning dilapidated.” Investigation revealed that the legal battle between three stakeholders - ITDC, Bihar and Jharkhand - has not ended as they continued to fight in the courts. Result? 

Bushes and trees continue to grow inside the Hotel Ashok complex even as more than quarter-century-old billboards. 

These billboards, each carrying melting colours of Hotel Ashok’s names stand firm on its outer boundary walls blanketing the ghost house inside.

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