Forums affiliated to the Indian Community Centre (ICC) and some of its long-standing members have criticised the apex body’s decision to affect a three-fold rise in their annual membership fee from the existing QR1,000 to QR3,000 without any prior notice.
The general impression gaining ground among the forums is that the outgoing ICC managing committee should have convened a meeting of their representatives to discuss the issue before affecting any fee hike.
“There is no second opinion among most forums that raising of the annual membership fee is unavoidable in view of centre moving to a new and spacious premises,” said President of Friends of Thrissur (FoT) Shahul Panickaveettil.
Such forums as Kottayam District Arts and Cultural Association (Kodaca), and Unity of Pala and Kaduthuruthy Residents (Upakar Qatar) have also voiced their protest against the ICC decision.
Panickaveettil said most genuine forums would not have opposed the fee hike in the new situation had more facilities been provided to them and also if prior approval was taken by convening a meeting of the forums.
“However, all of us came to know of the revised annual membership only when we received notice a few days ago,” argues Panickaveettil. He suggested the ideal revised annual fee would have been QR 2,000.
Countering the charges, re-elected ICC president K M Varghese said most of those who are levelling charges against revised fee were in fact aware that the centre had held a series of sittings in the months of December, January and February on the issue of revised annual fee.
“The decision to affect a hike was not taken all on a sudden. In fact, it was reached after a number of meetings of the managing committee, whose members were elected from among the centre members themselves,” said Varghese.
Rejecting the president’s claims, a senior office-bearer of the Indian Cultural and Arts Society (Incas), which is among the ICC-affiliated bodies said had the issue been discussed many times in the managing committee, then why should it waited until the end of its tenure to inform the forums.
“The latest development shows the ICC is losing its democratic character,” he said.
To this, Varghese answered that “there is no question of the ICC losing its democratic character or lacking transparency in its functioning”.
Each of its decision was conveyed to the forums after several rounds of discussions in the committee, comprising representatives elected by the members and those nominated by the chief co-ordinating officer of the Indian embassy.
Replying to the members’ charges that the new canteen at the centre was beyond the reach of commoners coming to the centre for consular services, the president said the canteen was set up after a bid in which five Indian restaurant groups participated.
“Altogether, seven groups had responded to the ICC’s field bid. However, two of them were removed from the list after the bids that they submitted lacked any clarity among other things,” said the president.
Actually, the group which was ultimately given the permission to start the canteen was only the second best among the bidders, according to the president. “But, after the inability of the top bidder (who had given a much better deal) to meet the ICC requirements on schedule, we had to settle for the present group,” said Varghese.
On the charges that those hiring the ICC for meetings need to give the catering to the group that runs the canteen, the president said the company had invested more than QR190,000 for setting up the facility.
“And that was why the centre’s managing committee gave the privilege of giving exclusive rights of catering services inside the premises to the group,” he answered. “However, the centre reserves the right to terminate the contract with three months notice if the quantity and quality of the caterers suffered on any count,” said Varghese.
Whatever may be the president’s arguments to this, the general impression among the visitors is that the canteen should bring down its current rates to make its services affordable to those coming to the ICC.
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