Eluru (Andhra Pradesh), Jan 5 : In an inspiring move, Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district police department is organising a cricket tournament to dissuade locals from cockfights and gambling during the Sankranti season.
“Previously also contests like this used to be held but without much publicity. This time we are doing it in a grand manner, involving all the divisions of Eluru town. Involving sponsors and also like a big league,” deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Dilip Kiran told IANS.
He said the tourney’s new avatar was the brainchild of superintendent of police (SP) Narayan Naik.
As many as 50 teams are vying for a cash prize of Rs 25,000, which is not limited to Eluru alone but also a few adjacent villages.
“There is no entry fee. If 11 people come and give their team, they can go ahead,” said Kiran encouragingly.
Strategically, the local league has been timed to clash with the mega Sankranti festival, which attracts thousands of people from across the world, who revel in festivities.
These also extend to large scale cock fights, gambling and betting, where hundreds of crores of rupees exchange hands in the annual Sankranti extravaganza, which also attracts hordes of Telugu film stars from Hyderabad.
Bhimavaram and adjacent villages such as Aibhimavaram, Kallakuru, Juvvalapalem, Seesali and several others are wildly popular for hosting hundreds of cockfights where the specially trained cocks throw extremely sharp knives tied to their feet against the opposing cocks to win the bloody battle and earn money for it owner.
Considering these excesses, the local police intentionally clashed the cricket contest with the festival, scheduling the finals and prize distribution on the main festival days.
“It is scheduled till Sankranti festival, so that they will be engaged in the league matches and the final will be scheduled on the festival day. Later on, the prize distribution and closing ceremony will be on the festival day,” pointed out Kiran.
According to the DSP, the initiative has also caught the fancy of a few more police sub divisions in the district such as Jangareddygudem, Polavaram, Kovvuru and Narasapuram.
Jangareddygudem tournament organisers managed to beat district headquarters Eluru by declaring a higher top prize of Rs 50,000 while Polavaram is organising a volleyball tournament.
With no age limit, Kiran said enthusiasts from all age groups are competing for the prize which is being organised at ASR stadium in Eluru.