Ignoring Shiv Sena’s demand, the state seems certain on renewing the lease of the Mahalaxmi Race Course.
“There seems no reason why such a large plot of open space should be opened up,” said chief secretary JK Banthia on Wednesday. “Right now, it is open for public and is well protected. There is a 99-year-old relationship that we have shared with the lessee, without any major violations. There is no compelling reason for us to not continue with the same. The lease policy is being studied and will be renewed in all likelihood.”
Sena has been pushing for the civic body to take over the 8.55-lakh square metre plot and turn it into a public park.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had met chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, requesting him to quash the lease and had presented him with a blueprint of the proposed park.
Banthia’s declaration comes after Chavan had said that he had not given any assurance to the Sena on the park proposal.
The lease renewal file was sent by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Sitaram Kunte to the state last week. It explained the current status of the lease, its violations and the Sena’s demand.
If the lease is extended, the government is likely to charge Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) ready reckoner rates. “The new rates will likely be as per the ready reckoner, which is the most reasonable way of calculating the lease value. It is likely to be renewed for 30 years, with an increase of lease every 5 years. The new lease rates are yet to be finalised,” said Banthia.
As per the new rates, RWITC will have to pay almost Rs42 crore as rent annually, as opposed to a meagre Rs56 lakh that it pays annually now. The hiked rate is calculated as per the new policy at 2% of 25% of the government’s fixed ready reckoner rate (RRR) - Rs98,500 per square metre — for that area.