Updated: August 17, 2021 3:32:24 pm
Asking people not to politicise the bullock cart race being organised in Sangli district on August 20, BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar said Tuesday that it was being held for the well-being of farmers.
Tension is apparent between the ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition and the Opposition BJP in the run up to the event.
The BJP leader had taken the initiative to organise the race at Jhare village in Atpadi taluka of the district despite the state government warning him against conducting the banned event. A large police force has been deployed in Sangli to stop people from gathering at the venue.
“Farmers from rural Maharashtra are going to come and participate with their bullocks in the race. So why should there be a police force to curb them,” he asked. “Farmers will be coming, not the Taliban from Afghanistan,” he said, adding that they only wished to hold the race peacefully.
Requesting the state government to lift the ban, Padalkar said, “It should honour the sentiments of farmers.”
State NCP chief and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said conducting the event would amount to violation of a Supreme Court directive. “Bullock cart racing has been banned in Maharashtra following the apex court’s 2014 order,” he said.
The Home Department, led by Dilip Walse Patil, had earlier issued a stern warning against conducting the race.
Cash prizes of Rs 1.11 lakh, Rs 77,000, Rs 55,000 and Rs 22,000 have been announced for those who finish the race in the first, second, third and fourth places, respectively.
The state government, however, is determined to prevent the race.
Locally referred to as the “bailgadi shariyat” or “shankarpath”, bullock cart races were an annual feature in rural Maharashtra until the ban in 2014 when the Supreme Court observed that inflicting physical and psychological abuse on animals did not suit a civilised society.
However, political pressure from the rural belt forced the state government to enact the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act in 2017 and spell out the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules. The aim was to restart the races under strict terms and conditions to ensure, among other things, safety of the animals.
The rules made it mandatory to obtain prior permission from the district collector to conduct the event. Violations invited a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh and a jail term of three years. However, the act was challenged in the Bombay High Court which upheld the ban.
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