If all goes well as per the plan, Press Club of India will have its new swank multi-storeyed building on New Delhi''s Rajendra Prasad Road in just two years time.
The apex journalists club which currently functions as a mere ''watering hole'' from the old cramped British time building at 7 Raisina Road, has been offered additional 1.64 acre of prime land opposite Shastri Bhawan on Rajendra Prasad Road by the Ministry of Urban Affairs. The ''Letter of Offer'' issued by the Ministry had set May 13 deadline for depositing Rs. 1.43 crore towards land cost and completing the new building within two years of the land allotment. Press Club of India has plans to construct 5 - 6 storey modern complex at Rajendra Prasad Road, complete with facilities like conference rooms, cyber café, library, mini-theatre, restaurants, swimming pool, health club, facilities for indoor games, guest rooms etc. And it wants to convert the existing premises into a spacious library.
But before 5000 odd members of the Press Club of India dream to have their new state-of-the-art premises, the Managing Committee of the Press Club of India have to cross several hurdles. And the biggest hurdle before the newly elected executive body of the club is to raise about Rs. 4 crore towards the cost of the land and the building. And that too at a time when the club is in poor financial health. It owes close to Rs. 25 lakh to suppliers. Besides there are about Rs. 28 lakhs of outstanding arrears. And all that it has in its kitty is Rs. 50 lakh of fixed deposit in the Building Fund.
Obviously, in this backdrop, even the payment of Rs. 1.43 crore towards land cost to be made to the ministry seems to be an uphill task. But the Press Club of India President, Prakash Patra does not seem to be too alarmed over the situation. "We have spoken to the Urban Affairs Ministry to pay land cost in installments. We have already deposited
The initial installment of Rs. 15 lakh with the Ministry. And we have planned several measures to generate resources while at the same time cutting down the running expenses of the club," says Patra.
The club''s bad financial health is due to its large over heads. The Club with an annual turnover of Rs. 2 crore has a strong army of about 100 employees. Besides a hefty amount of Rs. 80 lakh that goes as staff salaries, an annual overtime of about Rs. 3 - 4 lakh is paid to the staff. "We want to streamline the club''s operations by plugging the waste and improving the cash flow by improving the quality of the food and service" says Patra who has chalked out a strategy to recover huge arrears. Already, the Club has stopped service to those members who owe more than Rs. 5000 to the club. Patra says that the club is also contemplating legal action against those members who owe fairly large amount of money.
The Management Committee of the Club is also exploring various options to raise funds. These include inviting Chief Ministers and Corporate honchos for ''Meet the Press'' programmes and seek donations from them, holding film premiers, musical nites and fashion shows, besides seeking voluntary donations from the club members.
But before all this, the Club has to cross a technical hurdle. "We only have a Letter of Offer and the land for the club is yet to be allotted to us. Moreover we are seeking to get two objectionable clauses in the Letter of Offer removed. One of these clauses prohibits serving of liquor in the new premises though the liquor is already being served in the present premises. The other clause that it is club''s responsibilities to remove any encroachment after the land allotment is not acceptable to us. We must be allotted vacant land to avoid any dispute related to encroachment. Besides this, the change of land use should be made clear by the Ministry", says Patra.
Meanwhile the club authorities are meeting the Urban Affairs Minister, Ananth Kumar to get allotment of land with proper conditions and clear cut time frame to build the new premises of the Club.