An ongoing dispute between the army authorities and the members of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) escalated to new heights with about 3,000 members of the club sending a letter to Defence Minister A K Antony against alleged harassment by the army authorities.
No parking: The signboard put up by the Southern Command
prohibiting civilians from parking vehicles in the club
The members have been accusing the army of usurping the plot and dispensing it as part of superannuation benefits to retired defence officers. They claimed that the army under the command of Lt Gen AK Singh and Major Gen Anirudha C is resorting to illegal tactics as they have fenced off the open space at the club and put up a board prohibiting members to park their vehicles.
"The said portion of land is of no specific use for any army activity and this conduct of the army is anti-public. There's only one entrance for the civilians to enter the club of 100 yards where they have been prohibited to park. The army just wants to grab the land and stop horse racing which is going on for the past 100 years," said a member and lawyer, Prakash Bhoge.
The government had executed a lease deed in 1907 in favour of the club, granting certain rights to it for conducting horse races and other activities on the area, which is about 111 acres. The club falls within the jurisdiction of the Pune Cantonment Board.
Later, out of total area, about 65.5 acre was given on lease to the army. The club members, who claim to have documents to prove their possession, allege that the army authority wants to usurp the race course for their own benefits and stop racing activities.
The army authorities refuted the allegations in a release. They said that the army had taken control of its assets to avoid the claims made by the club members who want to take possession of 65 acre of defence land. It has also accused the club of violating several cantonment laws.