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Over Rs 800 crore betting money riding on cockfight, demand to lift ban grows louder in AP

To increase strength and stamina, the fighter cock is fed on a healthy diet consisting of dry fruits like cashew and almonds, eggs, chicken and mutton.

Sakshi Khanna | CNN-IBN

Updated:January 11, 2016, 8:13 PM IST
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Over Rs 800 crore betting money riding on cockfight, demand to lift ban grows louder in AP
To increase strength and stamina, the fighter cock is fed on a healthy diet consisting of dry fruits like cashew and almonds, eggs, chicken and mutton.

Hyderabad: In many districts of Andhra Pradesh the stage is set for traditional sport of cockfight during the festival of Sankranti, despite ban. Not only cruelty to birds is witnessed in these events, but also under the guise of tradition, illegal activities like betting and sale of illicit liquor, dominates during these cockfights.

Here is a CNN-IBN special report from the Godavari districts where fearlessly the cockfights are being organised in many villages.

The famous cockfights in Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh are already drawing huge crowds. The mega sporting event is the highlight of the Sankranti festival in the state. The events are held in private farms, where fencing is done for fights and tables are set for gambling. The cocks are pitted against each other and the betting runs into hundreds of crores of rupees.

For increased entertainment value, a sharp knife is attached to the claw of the game cock. Specialists are hired to tie two to four inch blade to the bird's limb. The cocks are then forced to fight until one dies or is so critically injured and is unable to stand up. Due to such cruel and illegal conduct of cockfights, the traditional sport is banned in the state by the High Court.

Opposing the cockfight NG Jayasimha, a member of Animal Welfare Board of India said, "The cockfights subject birds to horrific injuries. Also, it promotes betting racket, child labour, business of illicit liquor."

Defying the ban, cockfights are being organised in East Godavari, West Godavari and coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, which are known as hot beds of these fights. The preparations start months before the event. To increase strength and stamina, the fighter cock is fed on a healthy diet consisting of dry fruits like cashew and almonds, eggs, chicken and mutton.

These birds weigh up to 5 kilos and price run into anywhere between 50 thousand to 4 lakh rupees. The stakes for each fight ranges anywhere between a few thousand rupees and sometime run into crores. There is no limit for betting and many people even bet their lands.

The organizers promise 10 times the winnings for a single betting also. With no official data, it is estimated that money running into the betting during cockfights is over Rs 800 crores.

Jayasimha said, "The law is clear and there is strict punishments also, but there is political patronage and unfortunately the events are organised".

Many NRIs plan their trip to India during the period. Businessmen, politician and celebrities from all parts of the country flock to Andhra to participate in cockfights during Sankranti festival. The state government has submitted an affidavit to the High Court promising to take all measure to prevent cockfights in the state.

In the west and east Godavari districts, over 1500 have been identified as cockfight and gambling organizers. The district administration is conducting meetings in villages and enlightens the public about cruelty to animals act.

After the ban on Jallikatu has been lifted, voice to allow cockfights in Andhra is also gaining momentum, in the name of cultural sentiments that is attached with people.

But for now it looks, government is acting tough only on paper to prevent cockfights, and organizers are having the last laugh with alleged political support, said those who are against animal cruelty.

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