Punjab opens doors to racing
Even as political noise to do away with the racecourse in Mumbai is reaching a crescendo as the lease held by the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) expires today, the government of Punjab is gearing up in a big way to benefit from the situation should the Maharashtra government decide to shut down racing at Mahalaxmi
In an interesting move, the Punjab cabinet last week approved the draft bill for the enactment of the Punjab Horse Race (Regulation and Management) Act, 2013.
The decision will provide for setting up, management and operation of racecourses, betting activities, and also for licensing, regulation, control and management of horse races.
Interestingly, though horse breeding has traditionally always had a very strong presence in Punjab, the state, so far, did not have a single racecourse on its soil. However, all that is likely to change soon as the first racing facility will come up on a 192-acre government-owned land in Mattewara, Ludhiana. Not only race lovers from Ludhiana, but even those from nearby Jalandhar (one-hour drive) and Chandigarh (90-minute-drive) are expected to patronise the new racecourse.
Tegbir Brar, owner of the Dashmesh stud farm, welcomed the move, saying, “The setting up of a track in Punjab will be a huge fillip to the thoroughbred horse breeding industry in the state.” He added, “Contrary to popular belief, racing is not an elitist sport -- it is actually an industry that is very labour-intensive and connected directly with farming, agriculture and animal husbandry.” The move is expected to create a market for local horse breeders, who until now were dependent on Mumbai and Bangalore buyers, besides generating huge employment as well as income for the state.
Racing and breeding of horses is an environmentally friendly “green” industry which has the potential, if run properly, to rival any large scale industrial project, feels Brar, who signs off on an optimistic note, “The Punjab cabinet has taken a huge first step by approving a draft bill to start racing in the state, and if they can make it a low-tax affair, or introduce a Tote monopoly like Hong Kong, it can positively impact the state’s financials beyond anyone’s imagination.”