The Karnataka High Court mandated Monitoring Committee appointed by the Government of Karnataka has recommended far-reaching reforms in the governance of racing. The Monitoring Committee has acknowledged the misgovernance by the elected committee members of the club and has said that there are serious doubts about the integrity of the administrators among the racing public and this needs to be addressed by having an exclusive professional setup to take charge of all matters pertaining to racing.
The report is being welcomed by the racing fraternity and the professionals who have been adversely affected by the whimsical and undemocratic decisions taken by the BTC Managing Committee which have often raised questions of propriety. The Monitoring Committee has made a reference to the controversial steward Mahendra Kuga Shankar who had to resign midway for suppression of information about the fact that he owned a horse and became a steward when he was ineligible under the Articles of the Association. The Monitoring Committee was headed by former Chief Secretary B K Das and it has submitted its report to I S N Prasad who is the Principal Secretary Finance and the Additional Chief Secretary. Prasad is also the licensing authority.
The report strongly recommends the formation of a regulatory body to address the immediate concerns of the racing fraternity after a consultatory process involving the stakeholders as well. The Committee has recommended `` to separate the regulatory and governance functions from the purely routine management functions of conducting the races. The regulatory functions of framing the Rules of Racing, its structure and enforcement, discipline and punishment, licensing of jockeys and trainers, granting of colours to the owners of horses, breeding and welfare of horses including the medication procedure and rules, the induction of trained personnel/professionals for the conduct of races such as the stipendiary stewards and the handicappers etc. and the setting up of various training academies for such professionals may be vested in a separate regulatory authority. The details of its structure, functions and mode of functioning would need to be worked out separately after wider consultations. These aspects perhaps would need to be dealt with at the level of the Government and the changes mandated by the government to ensure a proper reform structure of the needed effectiveness of government nominated stewards. ‘`
The report further says that ``The Board of Appeal may be made totally independent and autonomous. Their selection and appointment need to be totally independent of the Stewards. The current practice of the Board of Appeal being appointed by the Stewards needs a complete review. ‘` The present structure has severe limitations and it was the long-standing demand of the racing fraternity to have a separate Appeal Board with no link to the Managing Committee.
The Monitoring Committee says that its suggestions relate to the very core issues, impinging upon integrity and honourable practices. If agreed to in principle by the government, farther necessary and detailed structuring of these suggestions can be proceeded upon so that they may be appropriately included in the Rules of Racing.
I S N Prasad has forwarded the recommendations of the monitoring committee to the Chairman of BTC for necessary action. The Monitoring Committee has said given the limitation of time, the intended report comprising comprehensive reforms in racing governance and more particularly integrity in the conduct of thoroughbred racing had not been possible.
The Racing Monitoring Committee has said that it does not wish to submit any hastily drawn conclusions without due diligence of all facts and circumstances, based on a careful study and analysis of all aspects of racing governance and administration of the Bangalore Turf Club. The Racing Monitoring Committee has opined that the general race going public and the racing enthusiasts had a very poor perception of the integrity of horse racing in BTC and their faith and confidence in the racing being conducted honestly and fairly at the BTC was eroding fast. The credibility of the administration of horse racing at Bangalore had taken a severe knock in the last couple of years. As earlier stated, the trust and faith reposed by the punters upon the BTC is currently at its lowest ebb.
The Monitoring Committee has hit the nail on its head when it says that promoting honourable practices should be the prime concern. ``Racing scandals and dishonourable practices occur from time to time. The constant refrain of the racing going public is that races are fixed, and horses are doped. Malpractices in racing do occur. If it did not, we would have had no use for the Stewards and the Rules of Racing that is intended to ensure absolute integrity and honesty, as the stakes are very heavy involving large sums of money.
The BTC mandarins have been behaving like they are modern-day despots. The present managing committee which has taken many questionable decisions was also busy amending the Rules of Racing to act on anybody they disliked. They strongly believed that anybody criticising the managing committee should be dealt with. The Racing Monitoring Committee report has highlighted the fact that the all-important ingredient of integrity had taken a severe drubbing.
One hopes that the Monitoring Committee suggestions are acted upon. The present set of office-bearers especially Harimohan Naidu and Satish Chandra who have been in the committee for long and have developed a vested interest have outlived their utility. They should also be told to keep away from re-contesting once their present term ends as the report surely has damned their many actions because questions of integrity have been raised by the monitoring committee of the last several years. The Monitoring Committee has also said that the resignation of a steward in controversial circumstances further eroded the trust of the racing public.