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Once the undisputed clubbing capital of the country, Calcutta has, over the years, yielded a fair bit of ground to other cities, as the grand old institutions struggle to cope with soaring costs, stagnant membership revenues, continuing labour unrest and, now, blood on the greens.
A body blow to the city’s downcast club scene was dealt on Tuesday morning by the course staff at Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). Seeking a pay hike, among other things, “a group of 60 to 70 workers” assaulted the club CEO and the course manager. Even though the second-oldest golf club in the world outside the British Isles has not officially declared a suspension of operations, members have been informed that services are “temporarily withdrawn”.
According to a spokesperson for RCGC, the mob, armed with lathis and rods, stormed the fairways around 6.30 in the morning, beat up security personnel at the gate, and pounced on course manager Lt Col. Saini (retd).
“Our CEO, M.M. Singh, who resides on campus, rushed to the aid of the course manager, but he, too, was severely beaten up,” said the spokesperson. The irate workers, who have reportedly been demanding a mark-up in their pay-pack for some time, rained random blows on Singh, injuring him on the head, neck and shoulder.
The club management informed the police immediately and officers from Jadavpur thana arrived on the scene around 7.30 am. Additional superintendent of police (industrial) R.K. Singh said five persons were arrested after the club manager reported the assault on its officials. “The immediate problem, it seemed, involved some casual workers,” Singh said.
“It’s a deplorable incident, something which should never have happened in a heritage club like ours. Just when we have been trying to lift the image of the institution through various innovative efforts, this is a blow that sets us back by several years,” RCGC captain Asit Luthra said from Hyderabad. Luthra is rushing back to the city on Wednesday to attend an emergency general committee meeting, convened by the club to assess the situation.
The brutal assault on the golf club officials comes as a rude reminder of the management-employee acrimony plaguing many of the vintage clubs struggling to make ends meet. Across Deshapran Sashmal Road, at another heritage stop and golfing destination, the Tollygunge Club, workers have been staging demonstrations against the management, demanding a 60 per cent pay hike.
“Yes, we have had two public demonstrations by the employees on the club premises over the past month. We are in dialogue with the workers’ union and I hope things will be sorted out, even if it takes some time,” said K.B. Menon, chief executive & managing member, Tollygunge Club Ltd.
In 2001, the Saturday Club management was forced to suspend operations for 80 days at a stretch following labour trouble. The Citu-affiliated workers’ union was agitating against some management decisions linked to money matters. Calm has returned to the club but at quite a cost — three idle months during difficult times.