Notwithstanding the tall claims of the government that it has contained cockfights, the blood sport is being organised at many places in the State and crores of rupees are changing hands in betting.
Along with rooster fights, playing cards (gambling), gundata and other games banned under the AP Gaming Act are reportedly being conducted in many districts in the State.
With Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy directing that gambling, sale of liquor and number of belt shops (unlicensed liquor shops) be brought under control, the police cracked the whip on gamblers and belt shops. But, rooster fights are continuing and punters from neighbouring States are visiting Andhra Prades, known for cockfights.
Increase in cases
Director-General of Police (DGP) D. Gautam Sawang said that there was a 12% rise in cases booked under the AP Gaming Act during 2019 (up to November-end). West Godavari district police booked the highest number of cases at 2,179, followed by 1,622 in Kadapa and 1,093 cases in East Godavari district, he said.
“In 2018, 7,304 cases were booked under the Act. This year, 8,316 cases were registered in the State. Instructions have been given to all the Superintendents of Police (SPs) and Police Commissioners to act tough against those who conduct activities which are banned under the AP Gaming Act,” the DGP said.
Police are conducting raids in villages to prevent rooster fights and gambling during Sankranti this year. Instructions have been given to intensify raids on clubs and patrolling in villages to check cockfights.
“We conducted raids and arrested many cockfight organisers, punters and gamblers in West Godavari district in 2019. The raids will continue,” a police officer said.
However a few public representatives, particularly in Krishna, East and West Godavari districts, argue that cockfights were part of the harvest festival. The matter is pending in the court.
Police identified that rooster fights were held in 4,552 villages across the State during Sankranthi in 2018, and they booked 3,228 cases against the punters and the organisers. Police arrested 7,123 persons and seized 4,530 roosters.
Meanwhile, organisers are making elaborate arrangements for conducting rooster fights in a big way during Sankranti festivities. They were giving necessary training for the fowls and are on the job of identifying the arenas.
Organisers said that people from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu sold trained roosters in West Godavari and Krishna districts a few days ago. Each fowl was sold at ₹8,000 and above, depending upon the colour and height, the locals said.
Punters named the roosters after other birds like ‘Dega’ ‘Nemali’, ‘Kaki’, ‘Hamsa’, ‘Gradda’, and other such names and will put the fowl in the arena as per the ‘muhurtam’ fixed by the astrologers.
Villagers tame the roosters feeding them cashew, almonds, and meat and train them to increase to make them strong by conducting trial fights before Sankranti. To evade police, organisers are conducting cockfights in coconut and banana plantations and in fields of interior villages.
Punters and guests, who enjoy cockfights will bet high on the roosters. It is said that realtors, traders, landlords, film personalities and software professionals are expected to bet crores of rupees on rooster fights.