A tussle even as far back as the 60s

A tussle even as far back as the 60s

It was the late 1960s and an All India Service official had applied for a membership at an elite club in the City. The board members of the Club rejected the application and within no time, the officer, using his bureaucratic contacts, got an order issued notifying a portion of the land at the Club for setting up of a post office! A senior member of this elite club, who did not wish to be quoted on this incident, recalls that famed clubs in the City also have a history of such incidents for several decades.

From demanding an entry into the club from the backdoor to recommendation letters to accord membership to certain individuals, clubs have been under pressure from bureaucrats and politicians.

There are even instances when clubs, which have got land on lease from BDA, had received letters of recommendation on a monthly basis. Though clubs have been manoeuvring such pressures, few incidents in the recent past clearly suggest that the government and bureaucracy always finds fault with the clubs after being denied membership or alleging ‘ill-treatment’.

Before the incident at Bangalore Club, involving a senior IPS officer's driver and the security guard, a legislature committee had come down heavily on the functioning of the elite clubs. The committee headed by former MLA D Hemachandra Sagar visited clubs that come under Registrar of Societies and Revenue Department. The committee prepared a report and tabled it in the Assembly in June 2013. The committee report said the membership at some clubs, at a fee ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh, had been the right of only a few. The committee recommended formulating membership fee and allowing membership for common people.

“All the clubs come under the scrutiny of bureaucrats and government. But, can you expect 5,000 members in a club which has 60 acres of land at its disposal? For example, Golf Club has got 60 acres of land. If the membership policy is liberated, how will all the members get place to play? Clubs have always been a closed group and are facing problems, because it has become a status symbol,” Anand Sirur, member of Golf and Bangalore Club says.

Justice N Santosh Hegde, who was the president of Bangalore Club during 1980s, said that select clubs have always been targeted in the absence of a single rule. “For example, the excise licence issued to Bangalore Club is for Number 10, Residency Road.

Now, Number 10, Residency Road, is spread over 10 acres. When there was no problem for more than 100 years with this licence, how come all of a sudden authorities found fault with the club? We know that there was a proposal to establish a club for legislators, which was widely criticised for the land zeroed in on. But, will legislators grant membership in their club to anyone in the society? The legislators have an exclusive Legislators' Home. Can anyone get a room, just because it is affordable,” Hegde asked.

Amidst these issues, club members accept that shortcomings on their part also need to be sorted out.

“Since we (club) are a closed fraternity, we tend to unknowingly defy rules within our premises. The violations found at the Bangalore Club are not confined to one club. Over the years, all clubs have extended the liquor serving joints, bar counters to many places in the club. We either need to strictly follow the rules as per the Excise licence conditions or impress upon the administration to change the rules, at least for clubs. Again, this is the only aspect against the clubs as far as rules are concerned and not a deliberate act of defying the rules. The Federation of Clubs-Karnataka will soon take up these issues,'' a former president of Century Club said.

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