2 Jan : A general house meeting of the Chandigarh Press Club (CPC) has been called on January 4, 2009 ( however, 2008 is the year mentioned on the agenda circulated) amendments to the Constitution of the club.
At the outset the draft makes no mention of the amendments carried out in the constitution so far. A copy of amendments, demanded by the members at the last meeting of the general house, was never provided. Even a request made to the Press club management in this regard was ignored as if the executive deliberately did not want to share what all amendments had been made in the past.
Though the proposed draft of the amended constitution , as prepared by the Advisory committee, has been circulated for adoption, it does not carry any signatures of the committee members. Leaving it conveniently open to doubt whether the draft has the approval of all the committee members, and also whether all the members, whose names have been appended, did participate in the deliberations on the matter.
The 26-page proposed draft makes no mention about the number of sittings the committee held and who among the members were present at each of these meetings when the Club’s most sacrosanct and important document was discussed.
We have also not been told if there was any difference of opinion among the members on any clause of the constitution at the meetings. There have been widespread reports that only a few members of the committee participated , while a majority of them abstained.
Transparency has been miserably lacking in the functioning of this committee. In fact this has been so about the club and all its committees over the past few years.
One of the most jarring notes in the draft has been that the members of the advisory committee would be arbitrating on disputes and differences on the draft Constitution. Those who decide on the amendments would also sit on the judgement to decide the disputes arising out of their decisions. This sounds very preposterous.
The members surely do not exercise powers of adjudication beyond the courts.
Every organisation takes long weeks to discuss before framing and amending its constitution, but the general secretary of the club has earmarked only a couple of hours to discuss and further amend the revised constitution at Sunday’s meeting. More time should have been given for a fuller consideration of this document which has great importance for the future of the Club.
The founders of the Club have called the press club a company in the Constitution’s opening paras. They wanted it to promote honourable practices and foster standards of the profession and encourage the study of journalism and for that purpose establish literary circles. This is mentioned in the Club’s constitution. We have not moved even an inch in that direction over the past quarter century.
In fact, all these years the Club has only laid all stress on its building, its repeated renovation, the bar and its restaurant.
The Club has been making strenuous efforts to collect donations from politicians. But it is not reflected in the improving the working of the club.
Time has now come to make worthwhile contribution on the media and intellectual fronts. When we had a budget of thousands of rupees journalists came here to discuss political and economic issues. Now we have a fund of several crores of rupees but we are devoid of all social and intellectual action in the Club.
Our funds have grown by leaps and bounds. There are now a score of daily newspapers in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali and several hundred TV channels in the country with their correspondents based here.
Present and former Chief Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have donated lakhs of rupees each over one or two occasions, especially so Mr Amarinder Singh, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ms Mayavati and Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Also a former and the present Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and various Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and the Centre and political leaders of Punjab and Haryana have given to the Club lakhs of rupees during their visits to it.
Until a few years ago, we could claim to have limited funds and be miserly and niggardly towards the women journalists and retired media persons.
No more! We have earmarked 5 per cent of the Club’s donations for our welfare fund but given no special concessions to women journalists and little more than a small cut in subscription to retired journalists. It is proposed now to charge no subscription from those retired media persons who have been its members for 10 years and are over 65 years of age.
We should now allocate one per cent of the donations to the purchase of good books, journals and newspapers.
Women are charged no subscription or entry fee in most clubs in the world. The Indian Government gives them liberal concession in income tax. The club must provide them with concessions. It is unfortunate that the amended constitution is silent on it.
We suggest that the club should provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the executive. The decision to reserve one of the two posts of Vice-President for women is just an eyewash.
All companies give a month’s notice for calling general house meetings. The Chandigarh Press Club being a company (read opening paras of the old or revised constitution) gives notice of 21 days to its members. This should not be further cut down to 11 days, otherwise any one can go to the Registrar of Companies and get is increased to one month.
The Club’s general house should elect the bar and kitchen committee heads, keeping in view the potential and suitability of persons in those fields. The Senior Vice-Present, if he is a teetotaller, is not the right person for the bar committee. The only male Vice-President can be a vegetarian and not the right person for the kitchen committee. Direct elections by the general house for these two offices will ensure better control of the bar and kitchen committees.
According the revised Constitution, we will have 2,000 regular members over the next few years working for a score of newspapers in the Chandigarh region and hundred of TV channels in the country. The Club should let at least 20 regular members (one out of 100 members) to aspire and become its President over a 40-year period. No member of the Club should thus serve as its President for more than two years (consecutively or in two separate one-year terms) in his life time.
The Club has recently taken up construction and renovation work, and no regular member knows how much it will cost –– a few lakh rupees or a million rupees or more. The matter came up before the general house at its last meeting. Half a dozen projects were mentioned in a few words each. There were no cost estimates of these projects, no architectural drawings of the proposed works and no names of the building contractors. No approval of the general house was sought or given. The general house has been kept in total darkness since then. This is unfair. Instead of operating in total secrecy, the club should work in total transparency.
When the Treasurer read out his report at the last annual general meeting of year 2007, several members said they could not make anything of the figures of lakhs of rupees blurted out in eight to ten minutes. The Club’s last Secretary General then said in the general house that copies of the Treasurer’s annual report would be sent to the members at their offices/houses.
Little has been done to this effect in nine months. In March 2009 copies of the Treasurer’s report of the Club and the Club’s construction work should be given to all members a couple of days before the annual general meeting. All companies do this at least one month before the meeting in the world. The Club is also a company as the Constitution says.
We are in due course going to have 2000 members as per the revised Constitution. Our members include reporters, sub-editors and proof readers of about 50 newspapers and hundreds of TV channels in the country. No one can claim to no more than one hundred of them.
How can we elect the new President or the Secretary General with full knowledge unless the candidates come face-to-face with the electors.
It is thus necessary that a meeting should be held two days before the election and each candidate should address it and tell us about himself , why he/she is contesting and what he or she will do for the Club and its members, if elected.