During lean periods, jatka owners get by with the money they earn from renting out horses for weddings

The Vyalikaval horse stable, more popularly known as the Palace Guttahalli jatka stand, may not be particularly impressive at first sight (or at first smell). Barely large enough to hold six carts, it is, however, the marker of a practice long gone out of style. With automobiles and autorickshaws dominating the road these days, the people who were once ferried around by horses have been replaced by construction material such as timber and iron rods.

Seventy-five year old Anwar, the owner of the jatka stand, talks about how business there once flourished with 20 jatkas during his father’s time. Rehman, Munna, Yousaf, Eechappa and Riyaz each own a jhatka in Anwar’s stand, and earn anywhere between Rs. 200 and Rs. 400 every day. Anwar adds that half of their income goes into feeding the horses: apart from buying commercially available feed, the cart owners procure grass and hay, and prepare a mixture with boiled rice for the additional nutrition of their animals.

“I was here at Anwar’s ever since I was a little boy; my father used to work with Anwar. I stepped into his shoes after his demise, but will not let my children do so. I continued in this trade as I knew no other,” says Rehman.

Windfall

Anwar, whose stand is about 50 years old, says the carts can take loads of upto 75 kg. Hardware store owners and dealers in the neighbourhood approach them for transporting material; the going rate is Rs. 200 for a distance of 4 km. While they face a lean period for six months of the year, the wedding season proves a windfall during this time. Marathi and Marwari weddings require a white horse for the groom, and the stand houses two horses groomed especially for the purpose. Exempt from other strenuous activities, “these horses bring in Rs. 2,000 or more for an hour or two of use,” says Anwar, adding that the baraat usually pays them well.

Neighbours wary

Earnings aren’t the only thing these jatka owners have to worry about; some shopkeepers around the stand see them as a nuisance, and would like to see the place evacuated. “Be it day or night they use the place to urinate, smoke, drink etc. The place is open 24 hours and hence provides the space and scope for all sorts of things,” said one suspicious store owner, requesting anonymity. However, Syed Rafi Ahmed, another provision store owner, is more sympathetic, pointing out that once the animals are tethered and the owners gone for the day, it is difficult to control who uses the space.

The authorities and animal activists pose another hurdle: according to Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Wildlife Warden Sharath Babu, the BBMP does round up cart owners if they seem to be overburdening their animals. “As long as it is in the permissible weight limits and the animal does not look strained, it is fine,” he said.

Rajini Badami, trustee and large animal in-charge, CUPA, says the permissible weight that can be drawn by horses is 750 kg, inclusive of cart weight, but adds that ponies aren’t capable of drawing more than 400 kg.

Moreover, she says carts are required to be fitted with ball bearings and pneumatic tyres. “The last time our team visited the Palace Guttahalli jatka stand was in August. Though they are adequately fed, they ofen suffer from fever in the rainy season,” she says.

But it’s Rajamahal Guttahalli councillor N. Vijayakumari who has the last word. She says she has written to the BBMP asking that the jatka stand be replaced by a bus-stand. “I have enquired in my ward and everyone is of the opinion that the place should be evacuated,” she says.

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