VIJAYAWADA: In violation of apex court orders, cockfights in Andhra Pradesh continued unabated with several crores of rupees gambled on the outcome of the bloodsport, now illegal.
Unmindful of the consequences, people in large numbers, including those high in political circles, entertainment and industrial sectors, had participated gleefully. Whether they had placed the bets, if so at what quantum, nobody, leave alone police are aware of.
Unconfirmed reports place the betting transaction that took place during the three-day Sankranti festival (commencing with Bhogi and concluding with Kanuma) to be around Rs 700 crore in West Godavari district alone.
Apart from West Godavari, cockfights and gambling were also conducted in East Godavari and Krishna districts. Though there were reports of cockfights organised in Chittoor and Anantapur districts, they were largely said to have been organised sans betting, that too in small numbers.
Police give in to cockfights
In West Godavari district, defying orders thousands of punters enthusiastically took part in the bloodsport. Though district magistrate promulgated Sec 144 of CRPC in the district, no one cared for it and the police entrusted with the task to implement it, remained mere spectators.
The banned use of blades in the cockfight continued unabated with onlookers getting excited by the blood spilled and the bets getting placed only increased as the fights continued. Epicentre of the cockfights in the district, like before was Bhimavaram region, with cockfights organised in a big way at I Bhimavaram, Vempa and Mahadevapatnam villages.
VIPs including former minister and MP JC Diwakar Reddy visited I Bhimavaram to witness the cockfight and also visited Undi for the same purpose. Other prominent politicos witnessed at the cockfight venues were Polavaram MLA M Srinivas Rao, YSRCP MLA P Ravindranath Reddy. In Koppaka, Denduluru MLA Chintamaneni Prabhakar participated in the cockfight. Around 10 MLAs from Telangana State too were reported to have visited the cockfight venues in West Godavari district.
Likes of film director VV Vinayak from entertainment industry, with several others from television field were seen witnessing cockfights. Despite efforts of the district administration, restrictions placed by the police, cockfights continued. Critics of the bloodsport claimed that police have not taken any action as they have taken bribes from the organisers.
Meanwhile, efforts to divert the youth from the bloodsport by conducting village sports and other games like kabaddi, volleyball etc.,, failed, with few takers for those sports during the festival. No joint action teams were formed with police, animal activists and social workers were seen at the cockfights.
Besides, there was a free flow of liquor with prices jacked up nearly twice the MRP at the cockfight venues and people were also seen engaging in other gambling activities like playing cards, gundata and the betting placed on them were said to be substantial.
Cockfights are the flavour of the season
Muramalla village- the most sought after cockfight arena in East Godavari, where several crores of rupees were reported to have exchanged hands in betting on the outcome of the fight. With MLAs, MLCs participating in the events, declared illegal by the courts, police remained mere spectators. Mummidivaram TDP MLA D Subbaraju along with other legislators and party leaders inaugurated the cockfights in Muramalla. Bets placed by each punter was said to be in lakhs.
In Krishna district, despite ban, cockfights were organised and betting running into several crores of rupees got placed. In Pedapulipaka, Edupugallu, and Kankipadu villages of the district, the bloodsport got organised in a big way, reportedly with the support of politicos.
According to unconfirmed reports, around 6,000 to 7,000 punters had participated at these three places and the equal number participated in other places like Penamaluru, Mylavaram, Agiripalli and other places.
Mango groves were used as venues for cockfights at many places. Sources said transactions were said to be 40 per cent of the money exchanged in bets in Bhimavaram area, which is to say, it could be easily about Rs 100 crore.
In Chittoor and Anantapur, though cockfights were held, gambling involved was reported to be insignificant compared to twin Godavari districts. In Anantapur, MP JC Diwakar Reddy, who participated in one such cockfight, said it was traditional involving no blade or bets. He even said the tradition will continue hereafter.