Jallikattu, the traditional bull taming sport, will this year be held on January 16 at Alanganallur in Tamil Nadu. The ‘Muhurta Kaal’ for the event was held on Sunday, attended by Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar, along with other senior officials.
Speaking at the event, Udhayakumar said the race will be flagged off by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam around 8 am on January 16, and is expected to conclude by 4 pm. Apart from the usual safety measures, Covid precations have been put in place this year to conduct the race smoothly, the revenue minister said.
Udhayakumar said local bodies have been given detailed instructions, and arrangements like putting up barricades and constructing separate spectator galleries will begin soon following Covid-19 protocols. Drinking water facilities, parking lots, and toilets will also be set up. Apart from this, all three venues –– Alanganallur, Avaniyapuram and Palamedu –– will be under CCTV surveillance.
The minister said a car will be awarded to the ‘Best Player’ and ‘Best Bull’ of all the three races. In addition to this, all the winners will be gifted gold rings, almirah, stainless steel vessels, etc.
A total of 655 bull tamers at Alanganallur, 651 at Avaniyapuram, and 430 at Palamedu have been declared fit for the first phase. A section of bull tamers, who will participate at Avaniyapuram, underwent RT-PCR tests on Sunday. For the rest, the tests will be conducted Monday and the results are expected by Tuesday.
For players participating in the event in Palamedu, tests will be conducted on January 11 and 12 and for those participating at Alanganallur, on January 12 and January 13.
As per the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Tamil Nadu government, only 300 bull tamers (after testing Covid-19 negative) will be permitted to take part in Jallikattu. They will be divided into six batches. Each batch will have 50 of them chasing the bulls. Spectators will be allowed at 50 per cent of the total capacity of the open space. All of them will undergo thermal screening. Other precautionary measures like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are mandatory.
As per the Jallikkatu Committee, the bulls should be at least 120 centimetres tall and aged more than three years to participate. The close to 100 veterinary hospitals in Madurai will examine the height, age, breed, colour of the bulls before providing the clearance certificate. The caretaker has to submit his ID proofs and details of his bull. After examining all the details, the doctors will provide the token to participate in the event.
Several bull tamers and committee members are none too happy with the government’s preparations and guidelines.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Rajesh, president of ‘Veeravilayatu Meetpu Kuzhu’, said the rules laid down by the government are hugely unfavourable for bull caretakers and tamers.
“The government has said a bull can have only a maximum of two caretakers. This is a very risky thing. Earlier, there would be four or five people around the bull to take care of it, so it could be controlled if it got aggressive. And regarding the bull tamers, the government said only 300 people will be allowed, selected on a first-come first-serve basis. This doesn’t work in a game like this. Experienced bull tamers should be given priority,” he said.
Another committee member said the absence of an online token system is creating confusion. Instances of lathi charge were reported at Avaniyapuram on Monday, when close to 2,500 bull takers gathered to register for the competition when tokens for only 500 were provided.
Rajesh, who has also served as one of the members of the inspection committee constituted by the Centre last year, claimed that the Tamil Nadu government did not consult two major committees, Jallikattu Peravai and Jallikatu Pathukapu Sangam, before chalking out plans to conduct the event, which has led to oversights. He said in places like Alanganallur, the full capacity is around 70,000, and even with the 50 per cent cap, a huge crowd would gather.
Bull tamers are also finding it hard to adhere to the rule of wearing masks during the event. They claim it is not practically possible to wear masks all the time during such an intense sporting event, and ask whether players in other sporting events follow the same rules.
“There is a chance that the masks will get stuck below the eyes and we won’t have proper vision. In that case, there are high chances of injury as we won’t have time to get away from the bull charging at us,” Sathish, a bull tamer of Avaniyapuram, said.
Meanwhile, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court Monday said no banners and flags affiliated to any political party should be kept at the venue. The bench added that no particular community or bull should be honoured before the start of the event.
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