On 13 August, around thirty five of 66 former employees of the Delhi Golf Club whose services had been terminated two months earlier protested outside the club’s premises demanding their reinstatement. The 66 employees worked at the food and beverages division of the posh club, located in central Delhi. Employees told me that many of them had worked at the club for 30–40 years but only got a three-day notice period. Since then, they have made several efforts—including writing to several authorities about the illegalities of their termination and regularly holding protests outside the club—to get their jobs back.
The club’s general committee had decided to shut the food and beverages division and dismiss its employees on 24 April, but the employees told me they were informed of this only on 28 May. The club cited the revenue losses caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the high salaries being paid to the employees as causes of the dismissal. “They didn’t give any indication that our contract will be terminated,” Intqab Ali, a senior waiter who was among the retrenched employees, told me.
Though their contracts expired on 31 March, the employees told me that the club’s management negotiated the terms and conditions of their employment and renewed their contracts smoothly every three to five years. During the negotiations this year, the employees told me, they had offered to forgo benefits they received since 2014 in light of the financial losses. Moreover, Ram Pal, the president of the Delhi Golf Club Employees Union, told me the employees worked at the club till 31 May.
Since the dismissal order, the Delhi Golf Club Employees Union has written to several authorities stating that the club’s retrenchment exercise saw several illegalities, including the brazen violation of multiple provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Disaster Management Act. Employees raised complaints with the central government, Delhi government’s labour commissioner and even filed two petitions in the Delhi High Court. RS Bedi, the president of the golf club, has denied the allegations and said that the food and beverages division is now being outsourced. During my conversations with them, the retrenched employees expressed a sense of betrayal and helplessness. “When I joined, 17 years back, my salary was Rs 650,” Jameel Hussian, a 53-years-old retrenched employee, said. “People who have Rs 8–10 lakh rupees are still working there. Why are they still there and we are thrown out?”
The Delhi Golf Club is a historically elite club in the capital. It is located at the Zakir Hussain road on 179 acres of land that the central government had leased the club in the early 1950s. Even though the land’s worth exceeds fifty-five thousand crores, the club pays only a token license fee of Rs 16,620 per acre each month to the central government, according to one of the employees’ petitions in the high court. The ministry of urban development has nominated three of its officers as members of the club’s general committee. The club charges application and subscription fees. Apart from that, the entrance fee for applicants selected for membership ranges from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh, plus applicable tax.