Tuesday, 20 September 2011

State imposes ban on Shankarpats

NAGPUR: It's time for the district administrations, specially the police department, to literally take the bull by its horns. With the government banning bull races, the popular 'Shankarpats' will be thing of the past in the state.

A GR issued by agriculture, animal husbandry, and dairying and fisheries department banned bull races and its exhibition. This is in the backdrop of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) putting bulls in the list of animals whose performance should not be allowed. Maharashtra is the third state after Punjab and Goa to come out with such a GR.

On July 11, this year, the MoEF said unlike bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions, henceforth bulls shall also not be exhibited or trained as performing animals under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.

Bull races (Shankarpats) have been a symbol of amusement for many villagers in the state. Many leaders use Shankarpats to gain political mileage while many are directly involved in organizing such races.

Anil Kataria, president of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Ahmednagar, who is spearheading a movement in the state against bull races for the past 25 years, says in Maharashtra, bull races are held in around 50,000 villages. Kataria has been touring villages including those in Vidarbha appealing people to shun bull races.

"Most races are even held for gambling. Such races are held thrice a week in places like Panvel and Kalyan," Kataria said. Shankarpat is also a popular event in Western Maharashtra districts like Ahmednagar, Nashik, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur. In Nashik, bull and horse races are very popular. In Vidarbha, Nagpur, Gondia, Wardha and Amravati districts are known for holding Shankarpats.

Ahmednagar district collector Dr Sanjeev Kumar Agrawal has even issued a circular on September 14, asking officials to ensure that ban on Shankarpats is enforced. Talking to TOI, Agrawal said, "Villages in Ahmednagar are known for Shankarpats. We will try to educate people on the consequences of organizing bull races."

Kataria said Shankarpat implies cruelty to bulls and there is a provision of fine and imprisonment in the related laws. In 2004, Kataria had even filed a petition in Aurangabad high court. In 2008 the court ruled in his favour. "Now that bull races have been officially banned by the Centre, I would write to the chief ministers of the other states to enforce the ban. If not followed, it will also mean contempt of court," he stated.

Meanwhile, Naresh Kadyan, representative of International Organisation for Animal Protection (OIPA), hailed the state move but wanted clarification from MoEF on definition of bull and ox.

Kadyan said the present Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is toothless and should be replaced by Animal Welfare Act 2011. Besides, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is an ineffective body which should be replaced by National Commission on Animal Welfare (NCAW), he added.

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