City SundayTopic of the Week

Time to act fast

This has reference to recent media reports regarding issue of notice to Mysore Race Club by PWD authorities to vacate and hand over the land to the department since the lease period is over and even the extended period has also expired.  Hope, this time there is no Quid-pro-quo (Latin word meaning = “something for something”) offer by any power lobby unlike what transpired in March 2016 when there was high level intervention by powerful lobbies for renewing the lease.   

    Blow hot, blow cold: For the past many decades, governments in power have been blowing hot and cold on this question. MRC is in occupation of valuable lung space in the central business district of the garden city of Mysuru (and also BTC in Bengaluru).  Immediate action has to be initiated for taking over the valuable land being used by a handful of well heeled people and some gullible punters.

      CO2 spewing in CBD: From environmental point of view also, the bald patch in the center consisting of tin/asbestos roofed horse stables, is spewing tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere creating heat waves in the vicinity.  Such emissions and heat deplete the moisture content in the atmosphere with resultant climate change, global warming and the likes of present drought.

     Need v/s requirement:  Mysuru has a population of more than 12 lakhs.  It is not fathomable as to why for the sake of a few hundreds of punters who want to bet and gamble on horses for a few days in year, such valuable land of 139 acres plus of land in the city center must remain vacant. It is necessary to examine this burning issue from a judicial point of view – need v/s requirement – The word ‘need’ has been described as something that is ‘absolutely necessary, could do with, must have, should, basic etc., with more thesaurus meanings to make it absolutely necessary to possess something for our existence. The meaning of the word ‘Requirement’ has been described as obligatory, conditional, optional, etc. So, this racing sport is not a ‘need’ for majority of the people.   

     If the above meanings are applied mutatis mutandis to the MRC controversy, we can arrive at a fairly well balanced judgment in favor of cancellation of lease agreement and to recover the land for majority class action (meaning: action that can be related to a majority of a class of people whose intentions are genuine and need based). In this case, ‘Class Action Need’ of ‘majority people’ for use of public place for public purpose and life giving clean environment takes precedence over the ‘requirement’ of a few people for entertainment. 

     Allegations of malpractices: There have been many instances when punters have rampaged and destroyed property/infrastructure of race course, assaulted the stewards due to alleged malpractices and manipulations in conducting races like flop runs of favorite horses, jockeys colluding with owners and trainers (the list is long) etc.  This clearly brings out that this so called ‘sport’ is flawed and is beset with nefarious practices by owners of race horses, trainers, bookies, cunning jockeys, con-men etc; and due to many instances of cancellation of the winning horse and declaring the second placed horse as winner. Other controversies, including its sub-lease of land to a golf Course, in violation of the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, non-payment of crores of tax money to PWD and government.  

      Suggestions for future use: 

  1.     With tier II city tag and clean city tag, Mysuru is likely to grow exponentially and end up like Bengaluru with a dubious distinction of ‘unlivable city’.   Temporary politicians who are here today and gone tomorrow must not take the liberty of imposing some fancy schemes for utilising the MRC land.  Government must hold public consultations with all stakeholders for a transparent and accountable action plan for utilising the land for public purpose. No unilateral political or bureaucratic decision that is detrimental to the heritage value of the city and hurt the sentiments and emotions of Mysureans must be taken and imposed (remember road widenings, buildings in parks, rope way proposal and Chamundi Hills development?).

  2. Thousands of trees have been destroyed in and around Mysuru in the name of modernisation and development of infrastructure by widening of roads, improving industrial scenario, construction activity for housing, etc.  It is imperative that the city compensates for the loss in order to create a conducive atmospheric condition for creating humidity that may give us good rains in future.  Both Mungaaru and Hingaarurains have failed and farmers are suffering and also city dwellers with unprecedented heat waves.

  3. Air pollution in Central Business District is increasing by the day and there is an urgent need for creating carbon sinks for cleansing the air by creating thick green foliage.  In future also, with business as usual, the CBD will face increased heat and spewing of CO2 into atmosphere.  It is suggested that in a portion of the 139 plus acre of land say, about 100 acres be developed as a Mini natural/organic forest for carbon sequestration with mass-planting of tree species like redwood, cedar, pine, Hunsur Teak, Rosewood etc., and endemic species of herbs, aromatics, fruit bearing trees/bushes, etc.   With the help of school children, volunteers, NGOs, RWAs, creating a mini forest can be a people’s movement.  For meeting the water requirements rain water from the storm water drains of surrounding areas may be diverted to flow into the center portion of the land where there exists a dug up portion that is housing the stables, workers huts etc.  Water of this pond can meet the requirement of drinking water of the birds, bees, insects that inhabits of the organic forest. The compound wall may be retained as a measure of safety and identified buildings inside the premises may be used to provide a dedicated forest office, quarters to malis.

  4. Segregated wet waste from residential/commercial units in and around the MRC area can be transferred inside the compound for conversion into organic manure/vermi composting like that is being done in the adjacent Zoo premises.  Bio-mass waste can also be used for this purpose.
  5. Need based solar power panels may be erected for generation and meeting of electricity requirement of offices etc., inside the compound. 

 Beware of land grabbers?  Before land sharks/real estate and power lobbies start salivating over the valuable land, PWD must take immediate measures for safeguarding the property with necessary security arrangements to avoid encroachments and consequential legal complications.  The tall compound wall may be retained and strengthened where necessary.  Police, people of the area and NGOs/RWAs must keep an eye on this land, protect, preserve and take part in conservation, to avoid its becoming a dumping ground for construction debris or garbage.   

– Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

(The writer is a social activist and environmentalist. The views expressed in this column are that of the writer).

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