Chennai: In an interview with DC, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University vice chancellor Dr K. Ramasamy, who has been an expert in livestock and farming for more than three decades shared his views on jallikattu and the conservation of native TN bulls.
Q: Jallikattu has become a major political issue and the demand for the sport has been gaining momentum explaining that it will protect native breeds. Your take on this?
Traditional sports are important for our cultural values. Jallikattu should be held, but it should not be allowed to overshadow more critical aspects of protecting native bulls. Even as the state is in the grip of Tamil nationalistic fervour over the existing ban on the bull sport during Pongal festivities, there are more aspects in protecting native species.
Q: Will jallikattu help to protect all the native bull species of Tamil Nadu?
We have endemic species like Kangayam, Umbalachery, Poorani, Bargur and Ongole and all species are facing the threat of extinction. Jallikattu will help to conserve cattle only to a minimal extent in some villages. The bull taming will not serve the entire purpose of protecting all native breeds. Agrarian crisis and lifestyle changes are the major threats to our native breeds and not just the ban on jallikattu.
Q: Disappearance of bulls had increased unemployment in the farm sector as dependence on tractors had gone up, your take on this?
It is a fact. The farming crisis has led to unemployment. The villager is more protective towards their cows than the bulls. Cow helps in the rural economy, whereas the bull is not economically helpful. Except a few bulls reared for jallikattu, bulls are always village nomads maintained by temples. The native livestock lost their value several decades back even before jallikattu ban thanks to commercial practices among farmers and villagers.
Q: What are the suggestion you recommend for protecting native breeds Whether it is cattle or dogs, there are ongoing conservation schemes in Tamil Nadu sponsored by the Centre?
Our university has been maintaining breed stock of bulls and their germ plasm. But the public has to start rearing livestock at villages and they should be converted back as farm animals only then the lost biodiversity can be retrieved in TN villages.
Q: Is there are an alternative for jallikattu?
Yes, our ancient practice had other forms of Pongal sports involving bulls. Like in Pudukottai district, there was a race between the bull and the youngsters running parallel without handling the animal. Further the bull owners can also tie, the prize money on its horns and release the animal in open streets without organising jallikattu, so that whoever takes the bull by its horn can take away the prize money and this practice were called as Pongal parisu maadu viduthal.