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Maharashtra Assembly clears bullock cart racing bill

The Maharashtra Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that allows bullock cart racing, a traditional sport that had been banned by the Supreme Court of India. The bill has a provision to punish the person in charge of the animal if he or she is found guilty of cruelty.

Also, state animal husbandry minister Mahadev Jankar brought amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty of Animal Acts 1960, which allow three types of bullock cart racing in the state with the permission of the district collector. ‘Bailagada Sharyat’, ‘Chhakadi’ and ‘Shankarpat’ have been allowed in the state, as they are ‘cultural and traditional events’.

However, the amendments also have a provision of punishment against the person in charge of the animal, if cruelty comes to light where the guilty person will be fined `5 lakh or sent to jail for three years.   The Supreme Court had banned races involving animals across the country in 2014 while passing a verdict in the Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagraja cases.

Two months ago, Tamil Nadu had witnessed huge protests where the state’s citizens demanded that Jallikattu, a centuries-old bull taming spectacle, be restarted. This spurred many organisers of bullock cart races in Maharashtra to appeal to the state government to pass a bill. Also Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil had appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider the ban on bullock cart races, however the apex court rejected his plea.

The bill read, “(Considering) the vital role played by traditional bullock cart racing in preserving and promoting tradition and culture among the people in large parts of the state of Maharashtra and ensuring the survival and continuance of native breed of bulls, the GoM considers it expedient to suitably amend the central Act.”

This statement is on the lines of the Jallikattu ordinance passed by the Tamil Nadu government, which was later converted into the law.

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