Bullock cart racing: India
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Chinchvali(Maharashtra), 2017: bull race despite ban
Back in the race: A dusty village in Maharashtra defies court ban and discreetly organises the banned bullock cart race on Republic Day
Villagers in Chinchvali in Maharashtra organised bull race
The race saw participation of 700 bulls and the villagers claim none of the animals were injured
5,000 people gathered to witness the race - a sport that is banned in Maharashtra
Villagers claim that they treat the bulls as their sons
Maruti Deshkar, a farmer from Titwala, could not hold back his joy when a pair of his bullocks, Lakshya and Kanhaiya, won the bullock cart race held on a dusty track at Chinchvali, around 70 km from Mumbai, on Republic Day.
A race enthusiast, Deshekar had placed a bet of Rs 20,000 with his rival on the race. Both of them deposited Rs 20,000 each to the organisers before the race began.
On winning the race, Deshekar got back his deposit and a reward of Rs 16,000 from the organisers, who deducted Rs 4,000 as their fees for holding the race.
Deshekar's rival lost his deposit. Deshekar and his colleagues celebrated by throwing gulal at each other but before that they ensured that the bullocks are moved to a safe place. All the bullocks were unhurt after the race.
At a time the country is debating on the use of animals for sport and the subsequent 'cruelty' to them by risking their lives, this race at Chinchvali presented a different story.
There were around 700 pairs of bullock for the race, but none of them was injured during the event. Almost 5,000 people had gathered under hot sun braving dust, to witness the race - a sport that is banned in Maharashtra.
The race was not publicised, either through mainstream media or social media. Word-of-mouth publicity had fetched competitors, most of them arriving in high-end cars, and the spectators in bikes.
Suresh Fulare, one of the organisers of Chinchvali race, says the bullocks that participate in the race are well maintained.
'It is wrong to say that these animals are treated cruelly. Can you see any injured animal here?' he asks.
The farmers argue that ban on bullock cart race is a result of misunderstanding at the government level. 'We treat our bulls like our sons. We feed them healthy food, which is usually a mixture of cashew and almonds, and two litres of milk every day.'
'We have bought two buffaloes only because we wanted to ensure that the bulls get their mills on time,' says Deshekar's son Vijay. Pointing at Kanhaiya he says: 'It is one of the fittest bulls witha a market price of Rs 36 lakh.'
'Do you think we will injure such an expensive animal? We take care of the bulls more than the attention you pay to your smartphone, which costs some thousands rupees.' A farmer from Karjat in Raigad Tukaram Joshi echoes Vijay. 'I spend Rs 500 everyday on a bull's diet.' 'We purchase only one litre of milk for family members, but the bull gets five litres every day,' he says.
The tradition of bullock cart race in Maharashtra dates back to 450 years. It is not linked to any festival as is the case in Tamil Nadu. The race is widely popular in the regions of Konkan, western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
Normally, the racing season begins after Makar Sankranti and lasts till monsoon arrives. This is the period when farmers are not busy in their farm related works.
There is no documentation on when and how the bullock cart race began in the state. The farmer's say that the race is mainly held when there is a fair in any village.
'Fair is the main attraction for social gathering in the rural areas even today,' says Dileep Bhoir. 'Tamasha and bullock cart race are an integral part of any fair. Now-a-days the race is organised even when there is no fair. It has become an adventure sport although it is expensive.'
In some cases, the organisers utilise the money raised through the race for renovation of local temples. The rules set by the organisers across the state have several restrictions on the participants.
One race must be finished between 23 to 30 seconds. The rider cannot use any kind of weapon that would harm the bull and most importantly one pair of bullocks cannot participate in more than 20 races in a year.
Bullock cart race is also a prominent platform for the politicians to reach out to the voters.
Shiva-ji-rao Adhalrao-Patil, Shiv Sena member in the Lok Sabha from Shirur in Pune, has approached the Supreme Court with a petition to lift the ban on the race. He blames the then Union environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, for not taking the matter seriously.
'He neglected our demand. Had he taken an initiative to resolve the issue through legislation we would not have approached the court.' Adhalrao-Patil argues that bullock cart race generates economy in that particular village.
The daily turnover on a racing day is not less than Rs 15 lakh.
It includes business of small traders and wages to the farmers' aids who help them in transporting the bulls to the racing venue. Adhalrao-Patil claims that the issue will be sorted out if the Parliament amends the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Then Union environment minister Jayanti Natarajan had included bulls in the list of animals banned for performance alone through a notification in June 2011. The other animals banned were bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions.
'If bulls are removed from the list all states will be able to keep their tradition alive.' 'Our argument is that bull is not a wild animal but a pet animal, a non-castrated animal,' he says.
Minutes after Deshekar won the race four officers attached with Thane Police arrived at the spot. They insisted the organisers must stop further races because they are still banned.
'We are eagerly waiting for the Supreme Court judgment on this issue. We hope it will be in our favour because we are animal lovers not torturers,' says Fulare. The association of bullock cart owners staged a raasta roko agitation at Narayangaon near Pune protesting against ban on the racing. The state is likely to witness several such agitations in near future.
NagobaJatara, Telangana, 2017: a revival after 30 years
Drawing inspiration from the Jallikattu agitation in Tamil Nadu, bullock cart racing competitions were held at Nagoba Jatara on Sunday, after a gap of 30 years, evoking much interest among the tribals. Nagoba jatara is the second biggest festival of tribals held in Keslapur village of Indravelli mandal in the district.
The tribal leaders now have plans to organise the event in a big way from next year. The bullock cart racing, a major event during the jatara, was stopped in 1987 owing to law and order problem and other issues. The bullock cart race was held as part of revival of traditional sports and games of the Adivasis in Adilabad and neighbouring districts at the jatara.
‘‘We drew inspiration from Tamilians who agitated against the move to stop their traditional game. No cruelty to animal was involved in our game either,’’ an organiser admitted.
The competition was held by the Rai Centre, a body of tribal elders, who will look into the issues concerning their community within the village.
Advisor of Rai Centre for four districts Kanakka Lakke Rao told Express that they want to revive their traditional game and hence organised the competition. He said they sought permission from the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Utnoor, but did not get the required permission to hold the event. In spite of it they went ahead and organised the game.
‘‘Within a short period, we have organised the event and people from surrounding villages participated. We will organise the event in a big way from next year,’’ Lakke Rao asserted.
Sunday’s event saw the participation of 25 bullock carts and U Ashok of Thosam village in Indervelli mandal won the race winning a cash price of Rs 10,000. Meshram Bheem Rao of Saidpur village secured second place and won Rs 7,500.
Stop Race Till Rules Framed: Bombay HC
The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government not to grant permission for bullock cart races until the government frames rules to govern the game.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar said when the government has till date not framed rules, as envisaged in the amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, it cannot grant permission.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Pune resident Ajay Marathe, bringing to the court's notice a bullock cart race organised in his district tomorrow.
The petition sought the court to stay the race.
Government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani told the court today that the draft rules were ready and have been uploaded on the government's website for inviting suggestions and objections from persons concerned.
The bench directed the government to file its affidavit within two weeks in response to the petition.
The Maharashtra Assembly had in April this year passed a legislation for resumption of bullock cart races across the state, after Tamil Nadu enacted a law to regularise its rural sport Jallikattu.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill would regularise the bullock race, a popular sport in rural Maharashtra which had been banned in 2014 on the ground that it caused pain and suffering to bullocks.
State Animal Husbandry Minister Mahadev Jankar had then said the amendment was being made to the central act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, in view of the vital role of the bullock cart race in preserving and promoting tradition and culture.
After the Tamil Nadu government enacted the law to regulate Jallikattu (taming of the bull), there was a demand to revive bullock races in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra, comparing bulls, bullocks, horses
It's a debate that could go on till the cows come home. Are bullocks meant to run races? The Maharashtra government continues to chew the cud over this issue.In its latest move, the government has cobbled up a ninemember study group to carry out a comparative study of the bull, bullock and horse in a bid to determine if bullocks can be used as race animals.
In August 2017, the state government had issued a gazette notification to resume bullock cart races in order to “preserve culture“. In a setback to the government's move, the Bombay high court extended the ban on bullock cart races last month.
The government resolution states that the HC had referred to a Supreme Court or der of 2014 while extending the ban. The HC said: “The bull is not an animal that does not exhibit work skills like the horse. Besides, taking into account the anatomical structure of the bull, the bull is not fit to run in races.“
The government resolution, issued by the state ani mal husbandry department, specifies that the study group comprising nine veterinarians will carry out the comparative study on different breeds of bulls, bullocks and horses. The resolution lays down six parameters for the group to focus on. Among them are the anatomy and physiology of different breeds of bulls and bullocks vis-a-vis the horse. “Yes, this is our attempt to win favour for bullock cart races. The intention is to prove that bullocks can run a race quite like horses,“ a government official told TOI.
The resolution also directs the group to study the bullock's capacity to run, to study its ability to pull weights and to review physiological and biochemical changes in bulls, bullocks and horses during a race.
The government has asked the team of veterinarians to submit their expert opinion and also prepare a comprehensive report besides compiling research work, studies and trials conducted across the world.
Bullock cart races are popular in rural parts of the state in Western Maharashtra and in parts of Vidarbha.