As the clock struck 9 on Friday morning, cockfights were launched at about 200 venues in East Godavari and West Godavari districts for this year’s Sankranti season.
None of the organisers missed the auspicious ‘muhurtam’, and the local elected representatives attended the event as chief guests. Neither the court’s directive nor demonetisation deterred the organisers and punters from running the show to “continue the tradition”.
Going by the first day’s transactions, it is estimated that the total turnover of this year’s cockfights in the two districts would be about Rs. 1,000 crore, as punters from places such as Hyderabad and Bengaluru arrived here only to stake. Playing cards and other sorts of gambling were arranged at the venues, where liquor flowed freely. To cash in on the new releases, punters named the roosters as ‘Khaidi’ and ‘Satakarni’ before leaving them into the battlefield.
In all, over a dozen venues in both the Godavari districts were said to be the high-end ones where the stakes were reportedly ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh, while at the remaining places it was anything between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 1 lakh. In East Godavari district, Vetlapalem and Godilanka were among the places where stakes were very high. Interestingly, the former comes under Peddapuram Assembly constituency, represented by Home Minister N. Chinna Rajappa, while the latter is close to his native place in Konaseema.
The venues were equipped with arenas, galleries and floodlights to ensure the conduct of cockfights round the clock. Media cameras, however, were strictly prohibited. “The organisers told us very politely not to turn up for the cockfights,” said Chaitanya, cameramen from a vernacular news channel. Over Rs. 1 crore was said to have changed hands in the very first hour at Muramalla village in East Godavari district. Modes of payment such as Point of Sale devices and Internet banking were being used at the high-end venues.
In West Godavari, district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party B. Srinivasa Varma formally launched the ‘wrestling competition for roosters’ at Bhimavaram, in which leaders of the ruling Telugu Desam Party and local industrialists were present.
The police were not visible in the surroundings of the cockfight venues.