Race Course fate hangs in balance as corporators reject plan to renew lease

Leaders across political parties Wednesday rejected the proposal to renew the 99-year lease for Mahalaxmi Race Course.

Written by Express News Service | Published: May 16, 2013 12:52:02 am

Leaders across political parties Wednesday rejected the proposal to renew the 99-year lease for Mahalaxmi Race Course. The lease with Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) is about to expire in about a fortnight.

Shiv Sena corporator Yashodhar Phanse raised the issue at the group leaders’ meeting. The decision comes days after Mayor Sunil Prabhu wrote to municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte stating that the lease should not be renewed.

The race course,located in south Mumbai,is spread over 226 acres facing the sea. It was built in 1883 on land donated by Sir Cusrow N Wadia. Of the race course’s 8.54 lakh sq m,BMC owns 2.54 lakh sq m. The rest is scheduled land that belongs to the state government.

The administration has so far remained noncommittal about taking the land back. “We are holding a series of meetings,” said a senior civic official. He added that the views of political representatives would be considered but the final decision would be taken on more practical grounds.

“We would like to build a garden of international standards that all citizens can enjoy. We find it inappropriate to allow such a large tract of land to be used by the rich to train horses. There have also been reported violations in the lease agreement,” said Prabhu.

“The state government may own the majority of the land,but we are going to ask them to reconsider. BMC land will definitely be taken back. It would be a folly on the Congress’ part to oppose the decision; that would not be in the interest of Mumbai’s people,” said Prabhu.

“The group leaders’ decision is not binding on the civic administration,which can take a stand based on what the state government wants. However,at least we have opposed the proposal for renewal. We have to ask what use is the race course to the city and what revenue is the BMC generating from it,” said SP corporator Rais Shaikh.

The RWITC pays an annual rent of Rs 60 lakh for holding derbies for six months a year. In 2010,BMC issued a notice to RWITC accusing it of sub-letting part of the land without permission. However,BMC recently renewed the license for RWITC to serve food and drinks at eateries on their premises.

mumbai.newsline@expressindia.com

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