CHENNAI: Despite stringent guidelines for the conduct of jallikattu, unauthorised manju virattu events are being held throughout the state, posing threat to the safety of spectators. These events, mostly conducted in northern, central and parts of southern districts between January and May, are unorganised unlike jallikattu. They are conducted without the approval of district authorities and don’t have insurance cover, making the family members of spectators depend fully on the government for solatium and financial support in the event of death or permanent disability.
It may be noted that a 35-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy died in Siruvayal village of Sivaganga district during manju virattu on Wednesday. So far this season, more than 20 people have been injured in such incidents in Sivagangai and Tiruchy districts. Officials said it is practically impossible to prevent such incidents without the cooperation of people.
A senior official from Animal Husbandry Department said villagers, as part of a local custom, let their bulls and cows run on the ground on the third day of Pongal festival, in locations not designated for manju virattu.
“This year, a few hundred bulls were brought to a particular place to perform some rituals, and suddenly let to run on the street,” an official said.
Last year, three spectators were gored to death at an unauthorised manju virattu in Pudukottai district.
In February last, traffic was disrupted for nearly three hours on the Bengaluru-Chennai bypass as a group of youngsters from a village near Dharmapuri let their bulls run on the national highway as the district administration and police delayed approval for conducting manju virattu citing safety concerns, a police personnel recalled.
A senior police officer said, “This unruly practice poses a huge risk to children. Unlike jallikattu, where a tamer enters the arena on his own, innocent spectators’ lives are under risk due to a lack of civic sense. But, it is a cultural issue and cannot be resolved immediately.”
Currently, the joint committee of district administration, comprising officials from revenue, fire, police, animal husbandry, and others, grants approval for manju virattu only after the submission of `1cr insurance cover for the spectators. For jallikattu, additional insurance coverage up to `5 lakh for a bull-tamer is also essential. However, most insurance companies have not provided the cover yet.
T Rajesh, state president of Jallikattu Meetpu Kazhagam, said, “We wanted the government to bear the expenses of insurance coverage for bull tamers across the state as we are unable to meet the expenses. However, we understand it is important that deaths of spectators have to be prevented during authorised and unauthorised events. Such deaths might become a threat to the conduct of the event itself.”
A revenue official said, “Compensation for those who died and were injured in these incidents will soon be announced by the government.”