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Clubbing curbs in town, on a card
- Plastic photo-ID introduced to keep out non-members, check facility misuse

Eagle-eyed stewards, special weekend entry barriers, random checks for member cards, and, now, the master card. Calcutta clubs are toying with technology-enabled tools to end ‘infiltration’ and modernise services at one go. To keep out unwanted visitors — and those there are a’plenty — and to make life a little lighter for both members and the authorities, club culture is poised to move from the manual to the mechanical.

Leading the way is Punjab Club, on Ballygunge Circular Road. July 19, say officials, will mark “the first smart card application in any club in India”, as members are given a piece of plastic that serves as a photo-ID, an e-purse and a loyalty card. “The smart card makes it easier for the members and for us. It will enable us to exercise greater control over misuse of the facilities by non-members, and the members can check their bills and pay either in cash or otherwise, according to their convenience,” says Sanjay Lamba, honorary secretary of Punjab Club.

The cards will serve as IDs, “to stop the unauthorised use of the club by non-members”, and double as credit cards on the club premises. “With the introduction of this technology, almost 85 per cent of the members’ worries will be eliminated,” adds Kuldip Nayar, chairman of the club’s computerisation committee.

The secret of the smart card lies in its security and simplicity, say its creators, Spaceage Technologies. “The technology works on a very secure algorithm for its read/write operations. Memory read, write, delete and modifications are done at the touch of a button,” explains Amit Kumar Roy of Spaceage.

It’s just a matter of time before the smart card travels further south. Air commodore K.B. Menon, secretary of Tollygunge Club, admits that non-members “wandering in” is a real problem. “We are taking measures, like checking membership cards at the gate, but we are also talking to companies to get the smart card for our members. It will serve as a safeguard. It will enable us to see how often the facilities are being used. The members can check their billing status or database anytime. The smart card is an advantage for everyone,” he elaborates.

Moving towards the city centre, Saturday Club, too, won’t mind such a master card. “I don’t really know about the cards, but yes, it would be a welcome help in checking misuse. There are times when wrong signatures or wrong membership numbers are put in bills. It is a problem all clubs face. On our part, we have made it compulsory for members to carry their membership cards, and club authorities can ask to see it any time,” says Shekhar Barman, president of Saturday Club.

Back at Punjab Club, the smart-card project cost of around Rs 12 lakh is not being passed on to 2,200 members (spouses and children between the ages of 10 and 21 will have to apply for one). The tabs are being partly picked up by sponsors Shaw Wallace and Standard Furukawa-Exide. “There is a lot of interest from the clubs to adopt the smart card and we are busy booking sponsors,” swipes out Roy of Spaceage.

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