After opposition by animal welfare bodies, organisers of the Kila Raipur Rural Sports Festival announced on Tuesday that the bullock-cart race event would be replaced by horse-cart race this year, at the four-day ‘rural Olympics’ starting Wednesday. The change on the eve of the fest, however, failed to satisfy organisations working against animal cruelty in general.
Grewal Sport Association (GSA), which holds the annual event, had earlier vowed to go ahead with the bullock-cart races at the 79th edition of the fest, despite a ban by the Supreme Court against such events involving bulls. After HT reported the controversy — ‘Bullock-cart race: Kila Raipur organisers, animal welfare board on collision course’ (January 23) — several NGOs sent notices to the organisers.
“Following the notices, we have decided not to conduct bullock-cart races this year,” GSA secretary Balwinder Singh Jagga first told HT. At a press conference held later to announce the schedule, he declared that it would be replaced by horse-cart race, “an altogether different experience for the spectators”.
The bullock-cart event had first run into controversy in 2012 and thus withdrawn that year. It made a comeback in 2013 and was a part of the games last year too.
In a judgment in May 2014, the SC expressly banned the use of bulls in races, or any form of competition. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), an advisory body of the Union government, was asked by the SC to monitor such events.
On Tuesday, Vinod Kumar, assistant secretary of the board headquartered in Chennai, reacted, “The Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, clearly state that the organisers of any event involving any animal in any act of performance for entertainment or other purpose will have to seek permission of AWBI. No permission has been sought for any horse-cart event at Kila Raipur.”
NGOs have also cited the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which states that animals not be put to unnecessary pain and suffering.
Punjab animal husbandry department director HS Sangha only said, “We intimated the district administration regarding the SC guidelines, and asked them to keep a check.”
According to the enthusiasts, the move to not hold the bullock-cart race would take a toll on the fest as it has been the main attraction for years.
“There is a deep sense of dissatisfaction among people who eagerly wait to enjoy the bull races,” GSA organising committee member Harbeer Grewal said, adding, “It is a setback also for the hundreds of bullock-cart race participants who train throughout year.”
Top leaders to attend
Meanwhile, the committee announced that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and food minister Adesh Partap Kairon would distribute prizes at the conclusion. Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, irrigation minister, Punjab, and MLA Darshan Singh Shivalik would be the chief guests on Friday, and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu on January 31. Singers who would perform in the evenings include Manmohan Waris and Debi Makhsoospuri.