Journalists Club has no option but to vacate ‘AB-19 Mathura Road’ by July-end
New Delhi, July 24 (Delhi Crown): Munish Gupta, the non-journalist and brother of Manoranjana Sinh (who was jailed for her role in multi-crore Saradha Scam), who got himself installed as the President of the Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia (FCC of South Asia) last year, has proved to be a bane for the Club, as it needs to vacate the premises – AB-19 Mathura Road, by this month-end.
A leading English daily carried a report on Sunday saying “Centre may not extend allotment of bungalows to FCC”.
Last month the Urban Development Ministry had sent a Notice to the FCC to vacate the premises by July 31.
Former PM Manmohan Singh had allotted the premises, opposite to the Supreme Court of India, to the FCC of South Asia in the early 1990s when he was the country’s finance minister.
The bungalow at ‘AB-19 Mathura Road’ was allotted to the FCC to enable the foreign journalists placed in Delhi to meet up at the place, and discuss and understand the latest socio-political developments in order to file their daily copy.
Originally set up in 1958, the Club remained at its current location for nearly three decades during which several senior journalists ran its management through elected or nominated Managing Committees.
However, the present incumbent Munish Gupta proved to be a bane for the Club, as the prestigious journalists’ meeting place remained in the highlights for all the wrong reasons during the past one year, say members of the Club.
Despite failing to qualify as a journalist, Gupta misrepresented himself as a foreign journalist (around 4-5 years ago) before former president S. Venkat Narayan in order to grab the Club’s membership in the “Foreign Correspondent (FC)” category.
It is learnt that Gupta doesn’t hold the PIB Card, which is provided by the Government of India’s publicity wing to all senior journalists meeting highest standards of journalism. The PIB Card is renewed annually.
Ever since grabbing the membership, Munish Gupta’s sole objective had been to remain a part of the Club’s Managing Committee by hook or by crook.
“Two years ago, when he held the post of Secretary (with S. Venkat Narayan being at the helm) and the whole of India was shut during Lockdown-1, a large number of illegal constructions and renovations were carried out at the Club’s premises at the behest of Munish Gupta, even as S. Venkat Narayan and the then Treasurer P.M. Narayanan kept on making payments blindly as and when asked by Gupta,” said a former Treasurer of the Club.
Several questions were raised at the General Body Meeting held last year over “illegal constructions and renovations” by members of FC category, however the outgoing president S. Venkat Narayan and the then Treasurer Narayanan failed to give any satisfactory answers.
During Gupta’s ongoing tenure, the Club has remained in headlines for all the wrong reasons. The most glaring one being the “abrupt cancellation” of the scheduled press conference of noted film-maker Vivek Agnihotri of “The Kashmir Files” fame.
Munish Gupta had first booked Agnihotri’s press conference without consulting the Managing Committee office-bearers, and then cancelled it at the eleventh hour after the Managing Committee office bearers raised objections on Gupta’s style of functioning of not consulting them before taking major decisions.
As a mark of protest against Gupta running the Club as per his whims and fancies, New York Times’ correspondent in New Delhi Emily Schmall had resigned from the post of Vice-President a couple of months ago.
Earlier, two other office-bearers – Ruth Pollar and Elizabeth Puranam, had also put in their papers after being miffed at Gupta’s behaviour vis-à-vis running the affairs of the Club.
Last year, Gupta had arbitrarily removed Assistant-Manager Sanjeev Kumar Verma who had worked at the Club for eight long years and rose to his position from his original position of a Waiter.
“Gupta removed Verma without citing any valid reason(s) and hasn’t yet cleared his accounts,” said a member on the condition of anonymity.
A month before Verma’s removal, Gupta had terminated the membership of an elected member on the Managing Committee, after concocting a false story about his “misconduct” at the Club.
Gupta is learnt to be associated with a business house, and is seen as a “broker” in media circles than a genuine journalist, said a senior Club member of the FC category.