Adequate water and green fodder must be available for bulls
On Sunday morning, a large number of workers were seen constructing spectator’s gallery in Palamedu, one of the three main venues in Madurai district where jallikattu, a popular bull taming sport held during Pongal, is set to take place.
Similarly, at Alanganallur and Avaniapuram, the other main venues, preparations have started for the conduct of jallikattu, involving the departments of police, animal husbandry, public works, revenue, district administration, and local organising committees.
Following the popular uprising against the ban on jallikattu in 2017 and the subsequent ruling of judiciary and the intervention of the legislature, there is more emphasis on providing sufficient infrastructure for bulls, players and spectators to make the event safe and largely incident-free.
The first and foremost area of focus is the collection points, where the bulls exit the arena. In the past, a large number of accidents had been reported in the collection points. A majority of these accidents involved spectators and those accompanying the bulls. Every year at least 150 bull owners would search for their bulls that exit the arenas, says C. Murugan, a bull owner from Alanganallur. “Sometimes, it takes up to three days for us to locate our bulls after the jallikattu. Hence, strengthening the collection points to solve these issues is important,” he says.
Superintendent of Police N. Manivannan says around 2,000 police personnel would be deployed at each of these venues during jallikattu. An eight-foot-tall double barricading would be installed in the arenas and collection points for the safety of people. “We have also taken measures to ensure that big wells and pits in the surroundings are sealed to prevent the bulls from falling into them,” he says.
An official from the district administration says the ground had been made into a slope beyond the collection point at Palamedu this year to prevent easy escape of the bulls. Two gates are proposed at the collection point to strengthen the security, says Regional Joint Director of Animal Husbandry D. Suresh Christopher. “This will prevent the possible re-entry of the bulls to the arena from the collection point. Also, the bull owners can easily identify and get hold of their animals,” he says.
To ensure additional safety, president of Jallikattu Padhugappu Peravai P. Rajasekar suggests that a few open cargo vehicles can be deployed at the collection points to transport the bulls to their owners. “This method, which is adopted at jallikattu events conducted in Erode, has been successful,” he says.
The other main area of concern is the holding yard, where the bulls, along with their owners, wait behind ‘vadivasal’ (entry point). “Due to fear that their bulls might lose a chance to participate in the event, the bull owners often tend to jump the queue behind vadivasal. Hence, a lot of accidents are reported here,” says S. Marichamy, a bull owner from Madakulam.
Though police are present at the holding yards, their strength has to be increased to avoid chaos, says S. Rajesh Kannan, a member of the organising committee at Alanganallur.
To address this issue, the number of tokens issued after the registration of bulls is restricted between 700 and 750 for each venue, says Collector T.G. Vinay. “This was a unanimous decision taken after consultation with various stakeholders. Now, the bull owners can bring their animals to the venues during the allotted time and this will avoid chaos at the holding yards,” he says.
While safety measures are in focus, it must be ensured that basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets and parking lots are provided for the thousands of people who watch and take part in the events.
It must be ensured that adequate number of drinking water cans are available near the holding yards and arenas, says M. Raja, a bull tamer.
The players also seek arrangements for having food stalls near government schools, where they usually wait. “A large number of bull tamers come from different districts and reach the schools as early as 2 a.m. and rest there. If there are stalls near the waiting areas, we can buy food,” he says.
P. Veluchamy, a bull owner, says authorities must ensure that adequate water and green fodder are available for the bulls at the collection points and holding yards. “There must be at least one tank of water for 50 bulls,” he says.
There must also be sufficient number of mobile toilets at accessible locations to ensure a hassle-free experience for the spectators, says P. Rukmani, a resident of Alanganallur.
The Collector says steps have been taken to ensure that all basic amenities are available during the events.
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