Given below is a detailed statement on the issues involved in the IWPC undertaking for members giving a reference to organisations to use their premises:
The issue in hand is an undertaking being given by members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps when they refer other organisations to use its premises for events. It is not on the membership form as is being claimed by some persons. The undertaking is meant to insulate the Iwpc members from any liability due to activities carried out by these organisations. It is part of the new booking terms and conditions that were put in place in August last year.
The background for the new booking policy was a series of events that took place last year. First was the incident at the Press Club where the office bearers were made liable for an event organised by a non-media organisation that had hired their hall. Second, there were instances of members referring organisations with close links to political parties or quasi- religious entities. In one case, a member referred an NGO which turned out to have close links with the RSS. It wanted to train volunteers on our premises. On being quizzed, the concerned member said she had no knowledge of these links. But she also refused to take responsibility for the NGO. In yet another instance, we had to turn down a proposal for another RSS linked entity. In this case, the President was personally threatened for the refusal.
Another NGO defaced the walls by sticking posters. On being told not to do so, the response was, “we have paid for the hall”.
These examples can go on and on, but the net result is IWPC management realised the need for a disclaimer to protect Iwpc and it’s members from liability in case an untoward event takes place. It also wanted to revise the booking terms to make sure that those who rent the premises do not misuse the facility.
The President, Sushma Ramachandran says that as a founder member of iwpc, she is in favour of some kind of disclaimer to ensure that Iwpc members are insulated from any liability due to such misuse. There is a real possibility of FIRs being filed against the office bearers for no fault of their own. In the past one woman journalist was named in an FIR simply for sitting on the dais of an event. Thus it is essential that there should be some protection to those members at the helm of the IWPC.
The managing committee, however, will discuss and take a final view of these issues. Whether the undertaking is to be deleted, altered or retained has to be decided by the duly elected executive committee. Some members have urged the President to delete the clause, on the grounds that she has the authority to do so.to do so. She feels, however, that one should avoid overriding managing committee decisions.
It must be stressed that nothing in the IWPC booking rules should be taken in a political context. All the rules for booking the premises to non member organisations have been framed to protect the membership. Also the terms nationalism or anti-nationalism should not be construed as either being for or against the government. These terms have been given loaded connotations in recent times. These terms need to be disengaged from their linkage to political parties like the BJP and viewed in a non-political context.
It must also be pointed out that the present managing committee has put the institution on a sound financial footing by raising Rs. 32 lakhs during the annual fundraiser event. It has also held numerous press meets involving political leaders of all hues as well as cultural events to honour artists and writers.