Mumbai: The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed the much-anticipated bill with stringent conditions to legalise the traditional bullock cart races in the state after it was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The bill amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was introduced in the assembly by Animal Husbandry Minister Mahadev Jankar and later passed.
The government had earlier appointed a cabinet sub-committee to prepare and study a draft report on the sport popular in several parts of the state. It was cleared after discussions with all parties.
The bill says while following the traditions and promoting culture, the safety of the bulls must be ensured by the organisers of “Bailgadya Sharyat”, “Chakadi” and “Shankarpal”, as the sport is known locally.
The game would be organised only after the permission of the local district collectors with conditions like no pain or injury to the animals or persons participating in the bullock cart races.
The amendment also stipulates a punishment of three years imprisonment or a penalty of Rs 500,000 to those violating the provisions and injuring the animals taking part in the sport.
Bullock cart racing has been traditionally organised in districts like Sangli, Satara, Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and Raigad among others with huge public enthusiasm.
After the ban, some local groups allegedly organised the races illegally last January, but no official was able to confirm it.
Giving a legal cover to the sport would help local farmers and the economy as they can earn money from the bulls participating in races where significant cash prizes are up for grabs.