It is ‘save-the-racecourse’ time once again with the state government proposing a heliport in the middle of the headquarters of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) at Mahalaxmi.

Incidentally, the RWITC is also awaiting renewal of its lease, which had expired last year. For years now, the RWITC has fended off attempts by politicians and other parties with vested interests to take over the racecourse.

From proposals to changing it to a public garden, to building a large commercial tower, an aquarium and underground parking facility, the Mahalaxmi Racecourse has weathered many storms to retain its lustre as an emerald in the SoBo crown.

Concerned citizens, environmentalists, the press and club authorities have come together to thwart overt and covert takeover designs in the past. Now, the heliport plans by the state will, whatever the protestations to the contrary, take away an integral part of the racecourse, which is open, green land.

The question that also arises is why can’t the city just have a racecourse? Horse racing is present in all the major cities of the world and one should actually be proud that Mumbai has a racecourse in the heart of the city.

This space is not elitist but is open for all walkers, joggers, children who play football, and amateur riders who take lessons during certain times of the day. During polo season, polo matches are held in the interior, and these matches, too, are accessible for the common man.

Keep it free
The racecourse already has one helipad, which is used by VIPs, industrialists and politicians coming to SoBo. One fails to see the logic in taking away prime, open land from the city, which is so starved of recreational spaces.

It is surprising that the government does not understand the value of keeping the space free for its citizens and the dire need of preservation of the few open plots in a concrete jungle.

Mumbai needs people on board to fight tooth-and-nail for its emerald. It is a space worth fighting for. It is time to clip the heliport project’s wings.