After five hours or so out on the course, golfers like to unwind at the clubhouse. The bearers who serve them there are on the payroll of the club. But most of those who bear the golfer's burden are not. The approximately 475 caddies of the Delhi Golf Club are no different.
Here, as at most clubs across India, they are no better than daily-wage earners. The rates advertised at the gates - 200-odd for a round of 18 holes - are a bare minimum, but not many who utilise their services choose to go beyond it.
On good days, a bagman gets to go out on the course twice; bad ones are spent in and around the caddy shack.
That they are in poor financial shape — they take home Rs. 6000 a month at best — is no secret. But not many are concerned about their fate, not even the clubs they work in.
"DGC wasn't willing to bear the burden of 475 extra employees," says Raj K Khanna, one of five members who stepped in to form the Caddies Welfare Trust.
While initial responses have varied from lukewarm to wary, in the two years since its inception, the trust has managed to organise a couple of eye camps ("Of the 250 who took part, 170 got specs and 22 underwent surgeries") and provide insurance cover ("The 88 who have opted for life insurance at an annual premium of Rs. 303 have been given free health cover of up to Rs. 1 lakh for a family of four").
The trust, donations to which are now eligible for tax exemption, aims to raise and maintain Rs. 5 crore. Collections have touched the Rs. 50 lakh mark, approximately Rs. 30 lakh of which has been raised by the charity event — golf tournament plus dinner — held on Saturday.
While the course was made available free of cost, the trustees want the club to do more for those who are providing an indispensable service to its members. Sick dole in genuine cases, subsidised coaching for those with potential — and more.
"Six weeks a year, during the international tournaments, most of them are without a job," says Khanna. "We want the club to provide some security, starting with this year's Indian Open."