Lease renewal woes existed for the Mahalaxmi Racecourse 40 years ago

Jun 01, 2013, 08:25 IST | A Correspondent

It is zero hour as the Mahalaxmi racecourse lease renewal time is up. With the fate of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) in limbo as the extension of the lease in still undecided, citizens await the future of this green lung. Here are excerpts from a letter written four decades ago by the RWITC to the BMC, which show even all those years ago, lease renewal was a matter of concern for the racing club

Salient points in the letter, which is signed by N K Pudumjee, Secretary, RWITC, written on August 6, 1973 referring to the lease which was to expire on May 31, 1974 touch upon: The 30-year lease granted to the Club by the Bombay Municipal Corporation which was scheduled to expire on May 31, 1974.

An aerial view of the Mahalaxmi racecourse, sitting like a green emerald in a concrete city

A paragraph in the letter states: “There is tremendous pressure on the BMC of Greater Bombay from within and without not to renew the lease after may 31, 1974 and to use the land on which the racecourse at present stands for low income housing.”

A trainer at the Farmer’s Market at Mahalaxmi. The racecourse is using its space in different ways

Further in the letter it is stated that any proposal in the reduction of open spaces and the construction of new buildings in this area is clearly detrimental to the health and well being of the population of Bombay. “Further disquieting reports have also been noticed in the press to the effect that the lease of the racecourse should not be renewed but alternate accommodation be provided for the race course somewhere near Bhandup or Mulund.”

Derby day draws in the hardened punter and the excited first-time

After a number of paragraphs citing reasons of why the racecourse should not be moved, the letter states that, “I am directed by my Committee to inform you that the Club would be prepared, it it is so desired by the Corporation to have a recreation park in the portion of the land leased to the Club within the area bound by the racing tracks, which recreation park will be of a nature as not to obstruct a clear view of the actual running of the races by the public from any angle.”

At the bottom of page 2 of this 6-page correspondence, it says: “The present Mahalaxmi Race Course was constructed in 1923 at Rs 1.5 crore.” The next page is entirely dedicated to the cost that would be incurred in case a new racecourse is to be made further away from the South Mumbai venue like at Bhandup or Mulund as it stated earlier.

The documents cites 8.5 crore. Of course, this would be a joke in these times, one can safely conjecture and this is being conservative, that costs would be 50 times that now, in case the race course has to move. Going on to how the sport contributes towards State Govt and civic authority coffers besides contributing to charity, the letter stresses that the Club in fact, while contributing to the State, is losing money on the whole.

N K Pudumjee’s signs off saying: “This letter is a formal request for renewal of the lease after May 1974. It is however requested that the Committee of the club be granted an interview in this connection so that the whole matter may be discussed in the overall perspective, which could never be done by way of correspondence”. 

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