The Bangalore Winter Derby scheduled for January 26 has come under a cloud with the jamadars, farriers, riding boys and syces of the Bangalore and Mysore turf clubs threatening to go on an indefinite strike from the same day.

Announcing this at a press conference here on Saturday, members of the Karnataka Race Kudhure Karmikara Kshemabhivrudhi Sangha said that the decision was taken as their demand for an increase in wages had not been met. Previously, the syces had gone on a strike during the Mysore summer season and were promised that their demand would be addressed before the winter season.

The demands

H.G. Andanaiah, general-secretary of the sangha, said: “The strike is against the Bangalore and Mysore turf clubs, Horse Owners Association, and Karnataka Trainers Association. We want them to consider us as labourers, and also make us entitled to PF, ESI, DA and other welfare schemes.”

He said they would ensure that no harm was caused to the horses during the strike. “The turf clubs make such large profits every day. Whenever we have approached the clubs with our problems, we are asked to go to the trainers. They in turn ask us to meet the club owners. With the result our problems remain unresolved.”

Tales of woe

Present before the media was P. Ramu to tell his tales of woe. Every step that this syce takes is a painful reminder of his risky profession and of the indifference of his employers. About two years ago, he lost his big toe when a horse he was attending to stamped on it. He received a pittance as medical reimbursement and ended up tending to his injuries by himself. He said his salary was not enough to support his family, let alone afford major medical treatments. “My son, who is a driver, earns twice as much as I,” he said angrily.

However, S. Nirmal Prasad, secretary of Bangalore Turf Club, when asked about the derby, said there was no reason to worry as they were yet to receive any communication on this front.

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