Amidst threat of disruption, BTC seeks police protection for the races
Weekend races, including the famed season-ending Derby at the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) on Sunday, will be held under tight police security, as a section of syces, who tend the horses, has gone on strike from Friday afternoon seeking better pay and working conditions.
The BTC is scheduled to have nine races on Saturday and the tenth - including the Kingfisher-sponsored Derby - on Sunday. There are about 1,500 syces, helpers, jamadars (stable in-charge) and riding boys working in the BTC, and they have demanded introducing benefits such as provident fund (PF), employee state insurance (ESI) and gratuity and enhancement of salary.
Amidst threat of race disruption, the decision to seek police protection was taken at a meeting held on Friday night between BTC representatives and the trainers' association. The races will be held as per schedule, V. Loknath Gowda, executive member of the association, informed The Hindu. “We cannot consider the demands at the moment as the matter is in the court.”
He also indicated that any meeting to resolve the impasse would be held only after Monday. “We're not going to talk to the syces now,” he said.
Earlier on Friday afternoon, K. Krishnachari, president of the Karnataka Pradesh General Workers' Congress, representing the workers, said: “We will boycott the races at the BTC starting from Saturday and also the Sunday's Derby if our demands [that have been pending for several years] are not met.”
On Friday, they sat in a dharna in front of the Labour Commissioner's Office after the BTC management representatives failed to turn up for a meeting convened by the Deputy Labour Commissioner to sort out the matter.
“There is no security post-retirement or injury for the riding boys and syces working at the BTC. We work for long hours but are paid a pittance,” said a syce.
Deputy Labour Commissioner Jayadevaiah said the workers had served the strike notice on June 30, and that discussions between the workers representatives and the management on Thursday had failed. “As the BTC representatives did not turn up for the meeting on Friday, I referred the matter to the (Labour) Commissioner. The Labour Department will take a final decision.” He also said that the Labour Department cannot adjudicate on the demands of the workers as there were legal hurdles.