Elites at loggerheads

Clubs cautious, post-Bangalore Club episode

Elites at loggerheads

Social clubs require government help to keep them going and government officials need the clubs to relax and be seen with high society.

So what is to be done when officials come to clubs without membership and when clubs seek details of the officials who do not expect to be questioned given their position and status as important government officials? Well, there is no formal policy by clubs to handle government officials without membership, there is an informal arrangement and consensus that they have to be dealt with in ways and means that would not hurt them (the officials) nor the club. There is an informal off-record consensus that government officials have to be entertained, though it’s possible that clubs could differ in their strategies in handling non-members depending on multiple factors and circumstances. But what is becoming clear is that the clubs post the Bangalore Club incident are ready to host powers that be as long as ethics and etiquettes are followed.

Century Club Honorary Secretary S P Rakshit outlined to Deccan Herald how they go about this issue. “The Century Club permits entry to government officials coming in government cars. A few basic questions will be asked about the purpose of visit and the member to meet. This information is relayed to the general manager of our club who then takes care of the official and people accompanying the official. We allow a government car only, but we seek information when officials come in private cars. When we are satisfied with ID and other credentials, we permit the official’s entry to the club. We have to make the distinction between a government car and a government official coming in a private car. In general, we accord entry to government cars.” Rakshit however cautions that anybody and everybody will not be allowed into the club. The status of the person is examined before permission is given for entry. Ethics and etiquettes of the club have to be followed. “A man from the street cannot come and say that he is a top government official. We are therefore careful in ensuring that the right people enter the club.”

Koramangala Club president P A Shetty says the club allows public servants coming in government vehicles. “The Club has been permitting government and police cars. We ask about their department and designation and purpose of visit and in general when we are satisfied, we permit them. Government officials coming in government cars can enter after providing details. About officials coming in private cars, we check the ID status and designation and then permit them. No etiquette is to be violated and our senior members of the club ensure everything is taken care of properly.”

“The club”, Shetty says, “has also been giving out honorary memberships to government officials, police, ministers, MLAs, MPs. Clubs are always under tremendous pressure to offer membership. How would it be possible to accommodate everyone - from corporator to MLA to minister? To handle this, we issue honorary membership to senior government people and the political class till the time they are ministers, MPs, MLAs. The club membership stands cancelled after their tenure. In general, we don’t disallow top officials.”

Bangalore Club was following their general regulation of seeking details from people entering the club in the context of Railway ADGP R P Sharma’s visit to the club and a row with security guards. They seem to have taken a strict line that entry could not be permitted until the credentials of the official were examined. The security guards were doing their job of asking for details of identity and purpose of visit. The car driver felt an affront that the membership status was asked of a very senior police official in the City and that a car sticker was insisted upon. This led to an unwanted scuffle and  scene at the Club. Post that incident, excise officials cancelled the licence of the Club that enabled them to serve liquor. And other clubs are now a bit worried about a similar situation that may arise in their cases too.

On the other hand, there is consensus among clubs that excise rules had to be relaxed and more sales points for liquor should be allowed inside the clubs. Says Shetty: “Each club’s size would vary. Some may be located in 2, 5, 7 or 10 acres and it is not possible for people to walk all the way to one counter to order for liquor. If two or three counters are allowed, it would help the members. We will follow all the rules in this regard and we are ready to pay a reasonable fee for the same. The number of counters also differs based on how big a club is and so the requirement for each club differs.” Century Club’s
Rakshit also concurs that two or three more sales points would help members who have to walk a long distance otherwise to get to the bar.

The Koramanagla Club president says that there should be some relaxation in excise rules. “It is not possible to follow everything that has been outlined in the rules and regulations. We plan to meet the excise minister to seek some relief from the strict law.

We are in touch with the government very frequently in terms of paying all taxes and land leases. There have been no violations from our side. The Federation of Clubs will decide when to meet the excise minister.”

Bowring Club secretary H S Srikanth, speaking about officials who may be non-members and yet want to come to the club, told Deccan Herald: “There is standing instruction now to the security to allow any government official whether in a government car or in a private car. They just have to show their ID card. We are also allowing MLAs, MPs and ministers to come in, based on their IDs. They just have to follow the regulations of the club. In case of heavy pressure, we are also having a policy of offering honorary membership to top government officials from mayor to police to ministers. One way to handle pressure is to offer honorary memberships.”

Srikanth said there was a need to change certain conditions in the excise rules so as to make things more comfortable for the members.

“We had multiple counters before, but now we have only one counter for sale of liquor. How can we expect people to come from all corners of the club to come to only one point? We are planning to meet the excise minister to introduce certain amendments in rules for liquor sales counters. Whenever we have some other issue, we are browbeaten on the excise rules front and the bars come into question. We have to find a proper media between the clubs and the excise department and ministry.”

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