East and West Godavari: Covid-19 pandemic, bird flu scare, or police restrictions failed to deter bettors from organizing bloodied cockfight events in East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, and other districts during the Sankranti festival.

Surpassing past records, around Rs 1000 crore was placed as bets on cockfights across the state.

In a bid to ensure that cash is not lost during police raids, organizers were seen making and accepting digital payments.

Though the police had warned of stringent action, no political leaders, who encouraged the cockfight events, were arrested. West Godavari police claimed 9601 knives used in cockfights were seized and 1105 cases were registered.

Cockfighting was banned in 2014 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the AP Gaming Act 1974. The ban was upheld again in 2018. Regardless of its legalities, cockfighting continues unabatedly in East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

At Bheemavaram in West Godavari district, the high-stake cockfights continued unchecked. Punters are said to have placed Rs. 10 lakh bet on each round of the fight in each of the 200 designated fighting rings.

Despite Covid, only a few people were seen wearing masks.

"Cockfight is banned buts the sport is our tradition. Though the police have warned of strict action, there was no impact on cockfights and gambling. I am told about Rs 1000 crores were wagered on cockfights," said MR Raju, a resident of West Godavari.

The fighting roosters whose prices range from Rs 80,000 to Rs five lakh were sold like hot cakes in Ravulapalem, Bhimavaram, Undi, and various other places in the Konaseema region. The prices are fixed by the farm owners based on the variety and its color.

Ironically, the demand for the birds which die in bloody sport has doubled as the meat lovers paid over Rs 30,000 to Rs40,000 per bird citing that the rooster's meat is so tasty.

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