The celebration of BACSA’s 40th Anniversary in 2017 has led to a number of new initiatives, which I would like to share with you.
The first is the series of lectures which BACSA has sponsored at the Institute of Historical Research at London University. BACSA is greatly indebted to Valerie Haye and Rosemary Raza for organising them. The first two lectures have been a great success and bookings for the last three in the series suggest that it is an exercise worth repeating. So a second series later this year is planned. The last two lectures in the present series take place on 6 March and 10 April 2018. There is just time for those of you reading this letter to book tickets if you have not already done so.
The second initiative is that the Executive Committee is considering that BACSA’s website be modernised and upgraded so as to provide a facility for paying on-line for membership, for second-hand books and for events. The new-look website would have greater capacity to display photographs and cemetery records, and would provide more information about ongoing projects. At the same time we are having all editions of Chowkidar converted to digital format and made accessible on the internet.
The third initiative remains the campaign to recruit new members, which I mentioned at the 40th Anniversary Lunch last June and in my letter last autumn. The Executive Committee is recommending a revision of the categories of membership which would result in the re-introduction of Life Membership. It is considering the promotion of corporate membership to commercial organisations in South Asia with strong British links. Rest assured, however, that the subscription rate for annual membership rate is unchanged. The drive to recruit new and younger members has yet to produce results; but I very much hope it will do so as 2018 unfolds. I urge all members reading this letter to think of those in the next generation of their families who might be persuaded to take out membership or to whom they might give membership as a gift.
BACSA’s involvement in restoration projects continues apace. The works to which BACSA is contributing or to which it expects to contribute in 2018 include those at the Scottish Cemetery in Calcutta, the cemetery at St Mary’s Church in Madras, the Residency Cemetery in Hyderabad, the Fraser tomb at Skinner’s Church in New Delhi and the Nicholson Cemetery nearby. We are indebted to Christopher Penn, our Projects Co-Ordinator, and to our Area Representatives for the considerable contribution they have made to the planning and implementation of these projects and to ensuring that BACSA’s money has been well spent. Their task has not been made easier by the introduction by the Indian Government in 2017 of a new General Sales Tax which, subject to a few exceptions, now applies at 12% to the labour and materials involved.
The effort involved in bringing projects to fruition is a reminder that BACSA functions only by virtue of the commitment made by members of its Executive Committee. In the course of this year and next, BACSA will be looking to appoint a new Chairman and new members of the committee. Any member who believes that he or she may have something to offer in one of these roles should overcome their reticence.
Finally, many of you may already know that in May of this year the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. BACSA, along with the thousands of other membership organisations which exist in the UK must comply with it. Compliance will not alter the way in which BACSA fulfils its charitable purposes, but it will require members to signify that they consent to receiving communications from BACSA which are a consequence of their membership. So those of you whose relationship with BACSA has become distant over the years will be asked to re-connect with us at least to the extent of giving the consent required. The GDPR is going to impose an administrative burden on the Executive Committee in the coming months: but the burden will have been worthwhile if it sparks fresh interest from our members in the work we do.