The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change under the Government of India today modified its own notification of 2011 paving way to the return of desi festivals as Jallikattu, Bull races and Bullock-cart races. The notification dated 7 January 2016 exempts bulls from the category of animals that should not be used as performing animals.
The earlier notification in exercise of the powers confirmed by section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, 1960, to include bulls, bears, lions, monkeys, panthers and tigers in the list of animals that should not be exhibited or trained as performing animals was brought out on 11 July 2011 and was upheld by the Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2014.
Though sports using bulls were performed in many parts of the country illegally before and after the 2011 notification, a host of such festivals will be returning officially after the new development. The Ministry seems to have succumbed to the pressure of various political groups of Tamil Nadu who were pleading for the lift of ban on Jallikattu. The timing of the notification gains significance as Tamil Nadu is preparing for its mega festival – ‘Pongal‘ and as Jallikattu remained an inevitable part of ‘Pongal‘.
The new notification (Click to view Notification) states that “bulls may continue to be exhibited or trained as a performing animal, at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat in the manner by the customs of any community or practiced traditionally under the customs or as a part of culture, in any part of the country”. According to the new notification, the District Collector should give permission to organise such events and the health conditions are to be monitored by the veterinary authorities. It also allows the SPCA and Animal Welfare Board to scrutinise the events and to prevent inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering of the animals.
The reasons leading to the earlier notification (11 July 2011) by the Ministry of Environment remain the same. The SC Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose stated “Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race and such events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1) (a) and 11(1) (m) (ii) of the PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or Bullock-cart Races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.”
It was anybody’s guess that such a move surpassing the earlier notification and the verdict of the apex court was on the cards months back when Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment visited Tamil Nadu and assured assistance to get the ban on Jallikattu lifted. And so it was no surprise when Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan tweeted on Friday morning after receiving info from Prakash Javadekar. He thanked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ‘facilitating the return of the Jallikattu before pongal‘.almost all leading politicians of Tamilnadu including the Chief Minister welcomed the new notification.
Now the bullock cart races as ‘Rekla’ and the bull taming sport as ‘Jallikattu’ will be back in Tamilnadu. Kerala may witness once again the bullock / Maramadi /cattle races of Chithali (Palakkad), Anandappally (Pathanamthitta), Kakkoor (Ernakulam), Karakkunnu and Muthuvalloor ( Malappuram) and a host unlisted animal races. The bullock-cart racing in Kila Raipur (Punjab), cattle races in Nellore (Andhra Pradesh), bull races of Chhattisgarh, cattle and horse races at Baleswar, Dhang, Bhuj, Surndra Nagar, Jamnagar (Gujarat) and Chikamagaluru (Karnataka) will receive fresh lease of life in the coming days.
The Animal welfare Board of India (AWBI) states that the Ministry of Environment had violated the Supreme Court verdict through the new notification. According to them, the apex court directed the ministry not to allow bull races and not to modify the 2001 notification without prior notification from AWBI. And AWBI reiterates that they have not given the government any clearance on the matter. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) swears to take the matter to the apex court once again and termed the move as a ‘black mark on the nation’.
(Slider Image and Featured Image: Credit: Dr P Balachandran)