Former Karnataka cricket captain and ICC Test Umpire A V Jayaprakash has been a passionate race goer and has been a successful racehorse owner as well. Jayaprakash expresses anguish at the lack of sincere attempt to restore racing. The Karnataka government had suspended the license to conduct off-course and on-course activities since September 1 following the CID inquiry into the affairs of the club.
The government had also asked 50 of its nominees to be made as members which the club members have been resisting. A Special General Body Meeting has been called on November 15 to vote for the resolution to amend the Articles of Association to provide for one-time expansion of membership by 50. All the memberships must be given to the government nominees. The resolution is expected to be rejected by a massive majority unless there is last minute dramatic development. Racing is set for troubled times as the battle of attrition will cause immense harm to stakeholders and others who are dependent on the activity of the club for its livelihood. Jayaprakash makes a fervent appeal to fellow members to rise to the occasion and resolve the issue at the earlier. We are reproducing his letter to the members in the full for a better perspective on the issue.
Racing in Bangalore is going through a severe crisis with the deadlock between Bangalore Turf Club and the Government of Karnataka halting racing activities for well over two months. The situation looks bleak because there is no thawing of the stand from most members who are against giving 50 memberships to government nominees. I firmly believe that there is need to expand the membership and increase it substantially with representation given to stakeholders.
Right now, the system does not help stakeholders to get in as several families control the vote bank resulting in exclusivity about membership with little participation from these members in the affairs of the club as a result. It is time to think more objectively about the whole situation, taking into consideration the misery heaped on the workers engaged in the activity both in terms of daily wage earners and those who look after the horses and others who are directly and indirectly dependent on the activity of racing. The members should give a serious thought to the plight of people who have invested in horses with a great passion. We cannot let them down. We need to act decisively to overcome the crisis that is threatening the 150-year-old institution.
Racing has indeed grown from being the sport promoted by the Maharajas of Mysore. It is their selflessness and passion which saw them develop and donate two race courses for purpose of conducting the racing activity. Today if there are two race courses in Karnataka, it is because of their vision. Can we let down the people who built the institution over the last century, with the vision of objective of expanding the horizons of the sport? Unfortunately, egos have to come rule the mindset of our fellow members resulting in internecine quarrels which gave a handle for the government to step in. We must understand the reality of the situation and act in the best interest of the sport even it means sacrificing the privileges that we had been enjoying exclusively. We must create a congenial atmosphere for the members to resolve their ego issues and ensure that we work as one and not pull the club in different directions just to satisfy our vindictive attitude.
I have a few points to make which I hope will find wide acceptance.
1. The membership should be broad-based. Very little purpose is achieved by electing our kith and kind to build vote banks which is highly detrimental to the sport developing. This situation has resulted in lack of commitment of members to the sport. We have seen accusations being hurled against each other impacting us negatively.
2. The club is financial crunch because of the impasse. I believe that the club can overcome the crisis by throwing open the doors of membership to all stakeholders by increasing it to 1000, charging Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakhs as the membership fee. We should have no hesitation in giving the 50 memberships as demand by the government if we increase the strength substantially because it will create a democratic environment, with no domination by any group which has proved to be detrimental.
3. We boast ourselves as a Rs 2000 crores turnover company. We have made a cardinal error in not working towards building a corpus fund which would have been of immense help in times of crisis. Because of lack of foresight, we have become extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of times. We have no money in the kitty to bail us out of the crisis. The successive committees have failed the club by not concentrating on creating a fund.
4. The club should increase the membership in a phased manner over a period three years. This way we can also redeem ourselves from the financial crisis.
5. Some of the money collected from new membership should also be used for developing a clubhouse which itself should become revenue generating like it is the case in all the social clubs. Even the Guindy Lodge at Madras Race Club premises gives enormous income to the club which is channelled for the club`s activities.
6. Racing activities have halted because of various conflicting interests that fought against each other. The break should help us to introspect and bring transparency into the system. Every activity should be done. We should have a transparent system where the money trail in all aspects can be verified. This will also eliminate a lot of benami owners who are playing havoc with the system. There should be no BTF payment directly to the trainers and it should be routed through the club to bring about accountability. The trainers should submit the bills given to racehorse owners with a copy marked to the club.
7. All the veterinary bills should be debited to the owners.
8. To improve the image of racing, we should have professional stipes to run the show, giving them absolute powers. The Board of Appeal should have an independent board chaired by a legal luminary. Acknowledged professionals from the sport should be part of the board.
9. A screening committee should be appointed to scrutinize the application of all aspiring members. Time-bound programs for all administrative actions should be fixed.
10. The bookmakers should be brought back. The tote flourished even when the bookmakers were around. Now we are not only losing income from their stall fee, the punters are deserting the tote causing loss of revenue. By removing the bookmakers, we have encouraged a higher volume of illegal betting. The club should abolish runner boys. If the license is restored to bookmakers, the runner boys should be directly employed by bookmakers.
11. The professionals and their assistants should not be allowed to carry mobile phones during races. The officials should also not be allowed to use personal mobile phones during racing activity. The club should provide mobile phones so that calls are under surveillance.
12. We should impress upon the government about the grave situation brought about by racing activities coming to a halt. The plight of the daily wagers who have been sent to distress should be highlighted and the government request to restore license immediately pending decisions about the expansion of membership.
13. The club has failed to honour its commitment given to the club. But this should not be the reason to put scores of people into distress because they are no way involved in the cause of the crisis. I believe that both parties should sit and thrash out the issue of membership amicably without putting those who are not directly involved into hardship.
14. The composition of the Managing Committee should undergo a drastic overhaul. 50 percent of the committee members should be racehorse owners.
15. The Managing Committee has shown lack of respect for racehorse owners by not co-opting not even a single racehorse owner when there was provision for nominating two. This itself reflects lack of concern for racing as the committee is loaded with only non-stakeholders.
16. The government banned racehorse owners from acting as Stewards following a few controversial decisions in the year 1985. The non-owners have been running the show which is chiefly responsible for this scenario. Their lack of commitment and their shenanigans are responsible for the stalemate. The ones at the helm have no stake in racing as they have made no investment and hence are untroubled by the activities coming to a standstill.
17. The Kunigal Stud Farm is reportedly shutting down its operations. The stud farm belonged to the club before it was handed back to the government. Efforts should be made by the club to get the lease back so that we can plan a race course there over a period of time. At least this way we can ensure that there no sudden death to the sport if there is any reverse in the pending litigation with the courts.
18. To prevent misery and hardship to stakeholders and others dependent on racing, the government should appoint an Administrator and a panel of members to run racing until such time the club and the government resolve their differences. Under no circumstances, the racing activity should stop.
With best regards and warm wishes,
A V JAYAPRAKASH