Covid cases surge, but crowd-pulling jallikkattu isn’t considered a risk in Tamil Nadu

Notwithstanding the risks, the Tamil Nadu government has permitted jallikkattu, the bull-taming event of the Pongal season

Jallikattu is an emotion in Tamil Nadu. And, that emotion seems to have taken prime priority even when the coronavirus spread has returned after a lull. 

The number of virus infection cases has grown manifold over the past few days, and yet the Pongal season in Tamil Nadu cannot do without the jallikkattu festival. Notwithstanding the risks, the Tamil Nadu government has permitted jallikkattu, which is a bull taming event held in almost every part of the state when the Pongal season dawns.

Though the state government has permitted the conduct of jallikkattu with curbs of course, the need for such crowd-drawing events have come in for much scepticism.

Jallikkattu venues to allow only 150 people

The government has said that only 50 percent of the total number of seats would be allowed to fill and that only a maximum of 150 persons will be permitted as audience.

 Further, if people are to be allowed into the bull taming arena as audience, they will have to produce certificates showing that both doses have been taken. For those without the certificates, Covid-19 negative certificates are a must.

However, the problem is not about being fully vaccinated or not. Social distancing is a major factor in keeping the virus spread at bay. And ensuring social distancing at jallikkattu venues could come about as a tough task.

Jallikkattu is part and parcel of the Tamil culture, and when the Pongal season arrives bull tamers and the general public gear up for the big events in their locality. As bulls run amok among the tamers, there wouldn’t be any norm that would be adhered to as the event, in itself, is a wild act with the animals running helter-skelter and men, bent on taming them, running after them. Most of the time the audiences too drawn into these bull taming arenas, making it an event of unimaginable proportions.

Part of Tamil culture, but risks abound

Listing out social distancing and sanitisation protocols for events like jallikattu is just an official procedure. When the even gets kicked off, all these norms have the risk of being thrown away by the wayside as crowds are what make the festival a success.

Keeping in line with Tamil tradition and allowing such an event to happen, even as the state is being slammed by the onset of the new wave of the virus spread could be risky. It would indeed take great will to convince the public about the risk of going ahead with the events now. And, playing to the people’s wishes in such circumstances is what most governments do too.

However, this is an era with a difference. It is the people’s lives that are at stake. Event organisers, fans and the government needs to consider that before going ahead with such decisions.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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