PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Has the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) in New Delhi completely overshadowed the Press Club of India as the den where the bold-faced names like to meet the capital’s hack-pack?
While the PCI, open to men and women, has been unable to shake off its notoriety as the watering hole of fixers, flacks, brokers, operators and other wheeler-dealers, the 15-year-old IWPC, whose membership is open only to women (the only permanent ‘male’ in its premises is said to be a date palm from Canary Islands) and doesn’t serve alcohol, has built a reputation as the place to go to if you want to meet, mingle and get your message across.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh downwards, everybody—finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the first lady of Syria Asma Akhras al-Assad—everybody happily troops to the IWPC to meet the interrogators whose mission statement is to “celebrate the past and shape the future”, while their male counterparts up the hill stare into their bloody Marys.
What really has given IWPC the edge over PCI in recent times, though, is the ability of the 2009-10 team of Neerja Chowdhury, T.K. Rajalakshmi & Co to attract newsmakers.
As the Congress-led UPA government launched Operation Green Hunt to meet “India’s gravest internal security threat”, home minister P. Chidambaram appeared at Windsor Place.
When DRDO scientist K. Santhanam levelled questioned India’s claims on the efficacy of its 1998 nuclear tests, he chose the IWPC to clarify his position to the country at large.
And so it was on Saturday, when the actor Jaya Bachchan faced queries, but there was a message in the non-existent bottle for the gathered women who had hoped to corner her on her husband Amitabh Bachchan‘s controversial appearance on a stage with a Congress chief minister.
Jaya, daughter of the late (and legendary) “Special Representative” of The Statesman, Taroon Coomar Bhaduri, also used the opportunity to remind the women of the Indian press corps of their covenant.
“Her most recent grievance was that a tabloid refused to print a retraction after publishing false news about the Bachchans, even though the woman editor apologised privately.
“It is not just women MPs who needed to be sensitive on the gender issue, lady journalists should show greater fairness when reporting about other women,” she said.”
Time to consider 33 per cent reservation for men at the IWPC?!
Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa meets an IWPC team led by then Indian Express (Delhi) editor Coomi Kapoor in Colombo in July 2006 (courtesy TamilNet)
Cartoon: courtesy Indian Women’s Press Corps