mid-day editorial: Mumbaikars must protect their turf

Post Derby, the dust is still swirling on the picturesque track of the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Every time Indian racing’s most prestigious event comes to a close, it is time to hold on to the binoculars and take a good hard look at this green emerald of SoBo, turf of the sport of kings and a vital lung of the concrete-covered city.

The green land serves as an easy-to-access recreational space for thousands of walkers and joggers every morning and evening. The middle of this green bowl is used by boys to play football. There is a polo ground on one side, and the Amateur Riders’ Club too, is located here.

Even after constant follow-up and vigilance by activists to keep the racecourse space as is, attempts to usurp it continue under the guise of various reasons, like building memorials or making better commercial use of the space. The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) is acutely aware that the 100-year-old lease for the space is over and needs to be renewed. It treads on eggshells, fearing attempts by politicians to bring pressure on the state to convert the ground. The same old excuses crop up each time — that racing is too elitist or that it needs to be shifted out of Mumbai.

This well-kept well looked-after open space needs to remain the way it is; it is an open land that one cannot put a price on, but is of immense value to the south Mumbaikar. Every open space need not be exploited commercially, as the benefits of having parks and gardens are huge but they are intangible. Just like we strive to save the few gardens and parks in the city, so should we fight for the racecourse.

If anything, politicians must ensure that this is kept as an encroachment-free and recreational space for the benefit of the public. Instead, we see some of them doing just the reverse. It must not be the public vs the authorities playing a tug of war over this precious space. When it comes to the racecourse, the motto for all of should be to protect and preserve with pride.

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