Tamil Nadu allows jallikattu with Covid-19 restrictions

The Tamil Nadu government has permitted jallikattu, the traditional bull taming sport, to be conducted during the harvest festival of Pongal in January with the caveat that all participants must follow pandemic restrictions.

All participants must undergo the Covid-19 test at a government laboratory and produce a negative certificate, said a statement from the government on Wednesday.

The number of players will be limited to 150 per event. The spectators cannot exceed more than 50% of the capacity of the premises so that social distancing norms are followed and all viewers will have to wear masks. All entrants will be screened using a thermal scanner to check body temperature.

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Jallikattu has been controversial and has been temporarily banned several times over the years as animal welfare groups have called it barbaric. But political parties and people of the state have insisted that it is part of Tamil Nadu’s tradition and culture.

In 2017, huge protests erupted across the state for the ban against jallikattu by the Supreme Court to be lifted. The Tamil Nadu government unanimously enacted a legislation to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to “preserve the cultural heritage and ensure the survival and continuance of native breeds of bulls”.

The move comes ahead of the election, scheduled to be held in 2021. Earlier this week, the government banned New Year’s Eve celebrations on beaches, roads, hotels and resorts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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