Delhi Gymkhana Struggles To Stay Exclusive As New Admin Makeover Brings Ramayana Game, NE fest
New Delhi: In the heart of Lutyens Delhi, members of the Delhi Gymkhana Club, described by Narendra Modi’s government as the “madhushala elite”, fight with the administrator appointed by the state to keep the last piece of their century-old exclusivity. A northeastern festival, a staging of Ram’s return to Ayodhya and seminars open to foreigners are just a glimpse of the new changes to join the club.
The Gymkhana Club has been mired in controversy for two years. Now members accuse administrator Om Pathak of draining the club of its essence. He was brought in to clean up his finances.
On February 15 this year, the National Company Law Appeals Tribunal (NCLAT) dissolved Gymkhana’s board of directors and ordered the government to appoint an administrator to oversee and control the “mismanagement,” after which the Ministry of Commercial Affairs filed a petition alleging bribery, mismanagement, and nepotism in the club. After Messrs Juneja and Vinod Kumar Yadav, a third administrator, retired IAS officer Om Pathak, took office in May 2021, appointed to this post by the Ministry of Commercial Affairs.
Pathak, a former UP-cadre IAS officer, is the founder and president of the SelaQui International School as well as the School Sports Promotion Foundation.
He attributed the complaints from club members to their dissatisfaction with not wielding as much power as before. He further told ThePrint that he was deliberately trying to “end the culture” of some people treating the club as private property.
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Anger about a “private club transformed into a public space”
One of the oldest members of the Gymkhana Club, a retired army major who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint that Pathak was “destroying the very nature” of the establishment.
“Last month he sent a letter to all club members asking them to nominate themselves for unelected subcommittees. The rules state that committees must be made up of members elected at the annual general meeting. Instead, over 15 sub-committees have been formed according to Mr. Pathak’s whims and fancies and they do what they want.
The retired major cited some recent seminars at the club as an example, including one on October 8 on Afghanistan and another on November 20 on the Quad Alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
According to him, “barely 25” people attended these seminars and those who attended were “foreigners” and “people known to Mr. Pathak” rather than members of the club.
“In the days of Covid, the amount of spending he incurred for seminars and festivals is highly unjustified and not even in the club charter. Delhi Gymkhana is a private club for sports and recreational activities of members, ”he said.
A former member of the now disbanded board has made similar complaints about Pathak allegedly flouting long-standing rules.
On condition of anonymity, she said Pathak rented Gymkhana premises for public events, such as the Northeast Cultural Festival earlier this month.
“The northeastern festival lasted for three days, during which the club member’s area was closed. Invitations have been sent to everyone and no guest fees have been collected. Our rules clearly state that a member can only bring two guests, but Mr. Pathak has invited many of his political and IAS friends for free. He transformed a private club into a public space or party venue, which will be offered to anyone who thinks Mr. Pathak is important, ”she added.
The former board member said she believed Pathak was bowing to the BJP government. She questioned inviting BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi as the main guest of the Northeast Festival, noting that “no political figures” had been called before to fill such a function at the club.
“In Diwali, a performance on Ram’s return to Ayodhya was performed at the club, as part of Pathak’s campaign for a Hindutva cultural heritage program. I think he is doing all this subtly to get closer to the ruling party, because his actions correspond to the state of mind of the people in the ruling party, ”added the former member of the government council.
She also alleged that Pathak had “bulldozed” an organic farm owned by the club. “Before, it gave the poor jobs. The organic vegetables were sold, which would bring money to the club’s accounts, but Mr Pathak razed the ground and tried to make it a party space, but luckily the Prime Minister’s safety s ‘was shot down heavily on him, as the area was within 100 meters of the PM’s residence and therefore no construction work could take place there.
“But in the process, the club lost their old farm,” she said.
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It is unethical for members to post comments in public: Pathak
When ThePrint questioned Pathak about the allegations against him, he claimed that only “members who lose their uncontrolled power have problems with me.”
“I led defense seminars and sent [records of the proceedings] to government departments. I think there is nothing wrong with it if the people who take care of the security of our country are discussed and appreciated, ”he said.
“I have also conducted cultural programs like the Diwali play and the Northeast Festival. I let out our space because the two courts [the National Company Law Tribunal and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal] made it clear that Delhi Gymkhana is not a private club but a space rented by the government which should also take care of public interests, ”Pathak said. “Some people have made it their own and I’m trying to end the culture.”
When asked about the organic farm, Pathak said there was nothing like it at the club. “That’s an absolute lie. When I took over, I saw a large piece of debris that I removed. A few members are making things up to say to the media.
Pathak said it was “unethical” for members to broadcast their complaints in public. “The matter is pending and members should not file unnecessary complaints with the media. If they have legitimate arguments to make, they should bring them to justice, I will answer them, ”he added.
“Questions on staff bonuses, appointments”
Ashok Yadav, president of the Gymkhana Welfare Association, told ThePrint that Pathak’s appointment has negatively affected staff.
“Over 500 staff members had been on a bonus since 1993, Mr. Pathak stopped her after taking over. Not only that, he also canceled the salary agreement for all permanent staff, leaving us in a bind, ”Yadav said.
“We do not know what salaries and facilities will now be granted to staff. Lots of staff retired and they didn’t receive their tips, we wrote to Mr. Pathak but he didn’t even reply to one of our letters.
Yadav also alleged that there were irregularities in the appointments. “[Pathak] has its own people to fill five or six leadership positions. Some positions were newly created and were not even needed. For example, a new post of “assistant director” was created last month and a person was recruited without anyone’s knowledge, ”Yadav said.
“A store manager known to Mr. Pathak was brought in, but we already had someone running the store. Om Pathak has been appointed to investigate the club’s alleged financial irregularities, but the irregularities appear to have increased after his entry, ”added Yadav. ThePrint contacted Pathak by phone to get a response to the allegations, but he made no comment as he was busy. However, he had said earlier that all the allegations against him are made up.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
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