I haven`t come across the kind of administrators that are ruling the roost in Bangalore Turf Club. I have covered every major sport, interacted with sports administrators. They are all concerned about the development of the sport and do everything that is possible to promote the sport.
Unfortunately in BTC, the mentality of the Board members is so warped that they delight in creating a crisis rather anticipate one and take corrective steps. They believe in a despicable show of strength without applying thought and reason. The BTC mandarins have shown that losing their way in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis.
The authorities wanted to make life miserable for the jockeys by revising the rules for licensing which looked absurd in the first place. They wanted the jockeys to be responsible for the fitness of the horses which is not their domain in the first place. The trainers are responsible for racing their wards in fit condition and the veterinary doctors are there to make sure that the highest principles of integrity with regard to the welfare of horses is maintained.
After the jockeys protested that they cannot be held responsible for the fitness of a horse, they dropped this clause. Many unreasonable clauses were also dropped after a hue and cry were raised. The Stewards no doubt lost face and yet again proved that they were incapable of governing. Unfortunately, the club does not have a capable administrator. Right now there are no senior officials in every department including the crucial position of the Secretary of the club. The Joint Secretary is also on his way out.
The turf club mandarins have been making noise about resuming racing in early September. By the look of things, the club itself is unprepared leave alone getting the difficult task of government permission. Unless the Ministry of Home Affairs permits sports activities without spectators, it is doubtful if the state government will take any pro-active step. The turf club was busy building a portion of the wall on the outer sand track. The outer sand track has not been thrown open and this has affected the preparation of horses. The turf club is still to issue licenses to jockeys though they put in their applications last week and this has further compounded the problem of the trainers who cannot work their horses without the assistance of these professionals.
The turf club is trying to escape its moral responsibility towards its license holders. The jockeys who haven`t earned a rupee for the last five months have been asked to get a COVID certificate and the turf club has refused to organize and pay for the same. The club has also asked for an undertaking from the jockeys that the club would not be responsible if any of them gets infected by COVID. Nobody is asking the club to be responsible as long as it has taken enough bio-security measures. The least they can do is to take COVID insurance for the jockeys. It doesn`t cost them the moon. The cost of COVID insurance for an individual varies from Rs 1800 to Rs 3000 depending on the age of the jockey. The club can well afford to spend a small sum as a welfare measure.
Unfortunately, the mindset of the committee members is such that they would refuse any genuine request while they have no qualms about spending money on things that don`t have any urgency. The Jockeys Association of India has done an exemplary job of giving Rs 10000 as a loan to its members to tide over the crisis. Spending a few lakhs on the COVID insurance of the jockeys is not asking for too much. The BTC should not wait for somebody to tell them to do it. They should volunteer to come to the aid of the jockeys by taking COVID insurance and also arranging for a free test. The majority of the jockeys cannot afford Rs 4500 for the test at this point in time. The wise men of BTC should feel the pain of these people and respond to their difficulty brought about the Pandemic.
There is trouble brewing on another front. There was a standoff between the Stable Welfare Society and the Karnataka Trainers Association and the Karnataka Racehorse Owners Association. The Stable Welfare Society which is at loggerheads with the other two bodies increased the Dearness Allowance for the syces and gave a risk allowance of Rs 2000 per syce without taking the approval of these two bodies. This meant that the racehorse owners had to incur more for maintenance of the horses in the hour of crisis. The funding for the society comes from the 9.5 per cent of the stake money deducted from racehorse owners and trainers. Unfortunately, the trainers association and owners association have very little say as the society has become the preserve of a single individual who doesn`t own a single leg of a horse.
The angered members of the KTA did not claim the BMC from the club setting off a chain reaction which resulted in the non-payment of salaries to the syces who have become restive. The situation could go out of hand if there is no quick resolution to the issue.
The KROA which held talks with the trainers and the society has come up with a solution to help the beleaguered owners for the next four months. The KROA has agreed to pay Rs 2000 per month to each horse and has asked the KTA to contribute about Rs 1500. The society has been asked to chip in with Rs 3500. This has been agreed upon provided the turf club gave a grant of Rs 7500 every month for the next four months. The KROA has dashed off a letter asking the turf club to come to the rescue of racehorse owners. It may be recalled that the Madras Race Club gave a subsidy of Rs 5000 per month for each horse in the premises for the duration of four months. The Hyderabad Race Club has given a similar grant to its racehorse owners for the months that the club is unable to conduct racing.
One has to wait and see the turn of events: whether the turf club holds firm in their refusal to help and cause a possible strike or act with responsibility in the hour of crisis. Crisis and deadlocks provide an opportunity for the authorities to think. Will BTC mandarins rise to the occasion?