Illegal Cockfights Rule the Roost in Andhra
By Express News Service - HYDERABAD
Published: 19th Jan 2014 10:58:05 AM
The figures would make Ladbrokes proud. More than Rs 400 crore exchanged hands between punters and bookies over three days of the Sankranti festival in Andhra Pradesh as betting on cockfights reached a fever pitch.
Making a mockery of police attempts to stop the bloody fights in which roosters with razors tied to their legs are thrown into a ring, usually resulting in the death of one of the birds, thousands placed their money on gaming birds as part of the celebrations.
Fanning the popularity of the sport have been politicians, businessmen and people from the film industry who have been more than eager to test their luck and get an upper hand over rivals.
The sport is extremely popular in the twin Godavari districts of Krishna and Guntur and in the North Coastal districts. “It is estimated that bets worth Rs 80 crore to Rs 100 crore are placed everyday during the three-day festival at I. Bhimavaram alone,” said a politician and organiser.
I. Bhiavaram, a hamlet in Akiveedu mandal of West Godavari, has a reputation of sorts when it comes to cockfights. This is where Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Chairman and Narsapur MP Kanumuri Bapiraju hails from.
The minimum amount accepted as bets here is Rs 1 lakh and goes up to Rs 50 lakh.
Besides I. Bhimavaram, cockfights are common in Prakruti Ashram in Bhimavaram town and Vempa village in Bhimavaram mandal. Mahadevapatnam, Juvvalapalem, Srinivasapuram, Dharmajigudem, Koppaka, Duggirala, Kokkirapadu and Naidugudem in Denduluru are the other hotspots. Of late, Denduluru has become a centre of attraction.
Given the quantum of money involved, the police are pressured not to interfere. MLAs, MPs, and ministers from Telangana and Rayalaseema attend the fights and some leaders apparently collect lakhs of rupees to get permission to host cockfights in their areas.
Most see the event not as gambling but pure fun. Said M Subba Raju: “Why is the government allowing horse races which come under gambling?”
There are no definite figures on the number of birds participating. It is estimated that about 30,000 to 50,000 roosters are used in the twin Godavari districts and other parts of coastal Andhra during Sankranthi. And watching them fight could be anything between 30 and 20,000 people, depending upon on the place and organisers.
An actual fight can last anything from 10 seconds to 15 minutes. The game birds are brought to the cockpit by respective owners and both stand or sit facing one another. The staring match continues for some time before the birds are released. Even before they strike one another, bets are placed. The game ends when one bird either refuses to rise to fight, runs away or dies.
The fact that there is little fear of the law when it comes to this gory and illegal sport can be ascertained from the fact that if an organiser or bookie is implicated at all, he is charged under Section 9, sub-clause 2 of the AP Gaming Act, punishable with a month’s simple imprisonment or Rs 1,000 fine or both.
The Sunday Standard