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Women press corps told to vacate Delhi office, clear dues of Rs 30 lakh, but body says rent paid

In an eviction notice on 5 August, govt asked IWPC to vacate office after expiration of lease and concessional period. IWPC says there has been a communication gap.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has asked the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), the country’s “first association of women journalists” with over 800 members, to vacate the accommodation allotted to it in the heart of the national capital after the expiration of the land lease and the concessional period.

In an eviction notice issued on 5 August, the Directorate of Estates under the Ministry of Union Housing and Urban Affairs, which is the custodian of 5, Windsor Place office in Lutyens’ Delhi, also asked IWPC to clear outstanding dues to the tune of Rs 30 lakh.

The lease expired in January and a six-month concessional period ended last month.

The notice came a day after Union Housing Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a written answer to a Rajya Sabha question that the IWPC was allotted the land in May 1994, and the last retention order was issued on 6 January 2018 for a period of three years.

The minister said IWPC had paid Rs 15.99 lakh to the government as of 30 June this year, but outstanding dues stood at Rs 30 lakh.

The response came after BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe sought information on office spaces allotted to NGOs and social organisations within the limits of New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).

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‘Paying rent on time, communication gap’

IWPC president Vineeta Pandey told ThePrint that the body sent an application for lease renewal as well as reminders regarding the same to the ministry on time.

“We were told by the concerned official that the process by the government got delayed due to pandemic and lockdown. Our request for extension has been processed but it will take time due to inter-ministerial consultation. Whenever a lease is renewed it is from the date it expires,” she said.

In a statement issued last week, Pandey had noted that the eviction notice was sent only after the Parliament question was brought up. “We have received such letters in the past too,” she said in the statement.

Pandey also said that the body has been paying rent on time and there has been a communication gap.

“We have been paying our rent on time but for some reason it is showing under ‘suspense account’ in the government system after they shifted to a new payment system. We came to know about this only after the Parliament question and were never sent any notice or letter by the government,” said Pandey.

“We are taking our bank statements to them on Monday since all transactions are through the bank to tally and clear that suspense account,” Pandey said.

Asked about the outstanding dues, Pandey said, “The ministry has asked for a week to tally the payments. They are currently doing recalculation, there has been a communication gap.”

However, the housing ministry maintained otherwise.

“The IWPC has to clear the dues in their name. Correct action was taken following due procedure in this case when a notice was sent to them. If they clear the dues then it’s fine,” a ministry official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

Others with dues

According to the Rajya Sabha reply by Puri, eight other NGOs or trusts have been allotted office spaces that fall under NDMC.

These are Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation, Fakhruddin Ali Memorial Committee, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial, Bahujan Prerna Trust, Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, Mahila Dakshta Samiti and Foreign Correspondents Club.

Barring the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust and the Foreign Correspondents Club, which don’t owe the government any dues, the other six have outstanding dues amounting to a total of Rs 1.4 crore as of 30 June.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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