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The Jallikattu effect: Maha govt to initiate bill to resume bullock cart racing

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 31 March 2017, 19:09 IST
(Rajnish Katyal/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Ever since the Tamil Nadu government brought in an ordinance lifting the ban on Jallikattu, the hugely popular bull-taming sport, in January this year, the Maharashtra government has come under a lot of pressure to lift the ban on bullock cart racing and has decided to introduce a bill to that effect.

The state Cabinet has decided to appoint a cabinet sub-committee to study the draft to amend Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to facilitate organisation of bullock cart races. The Bill is likely to be tabled in the ongoing budget session of Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly. 

Similar to Jallikattu, it is a traditional adventure sport in Maharashtra.

Cause and effect

The unity that was displayed by Tamil Nadu, where politicians, celebrities and the people at large opposed the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu tooth and nail, has become an example for other states. 

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena promptly jumped in to get the ban on traditional bullock cart racing lifted during the recently held panchayat elections. Leaders like MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil staged a ‘rasta roko’ and resorted to other means of protest.

“If government of Tamil Nadu can honour public sentiment and bring in the ordinance to allow Jallikattu, why can’t CM Devendra Fadnavis do the same,” asks Adhalrao-Patil.

As pressure mounted on the government as more and more voices joined in, the state government decided to bring in the ordinance to lift the ban.

Rajesh Garade, a farmer from Mhaisal village in Sangli district, says, “The races are part of our tradition. There is no substance in the claims made by animal welfare activists that the bullocks are harmed or subjected to cruelty. In fact, the main rule in the race is that the participants cannot use any weapon that could harm the bullock and that one pair of bullocks cannot participate in more than 20 races in a year.”

If government of Tamil Nadu can honour the public sentiment and bring in the ordinance, why can’t government of Maharashtra do the same, he asks.

“All the bullocks are well maintained. The animals are treated like family members. Not even a single animal is hurt or injured in the race. There is no substance in the claims that animals are subjected to cruelty,” said a farmer from Titwala village in Thane district, who did not wish to be named as he had organized a bullock cart race in January this year.

The objections

Unlike Jallikattu, bullock cart racing is not about fighting the bulls. It is a race of two-wheeled carts pulled by a pair of bullocks. The maximum distance covered is 400 metres and the races usually begin on Makar Sakranti and at the onset of monsoon. These races have been traditional in areas such as Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli, Thane and Palghar districts of Konkan region, North Maharashtra and Vidarbha.

Despite the ban, races have been held discreetly.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had issued a notification in 2011, banning exhibition and training of bulls as performing animals. Then in March 2012, the Bombay High Court banned bullock cart racing.

The Supreme Court too held up the MoEF notification and the ban.

First published: 31 March 2017, 19:09 IST