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Reporter's Diary

Poor polling percentage is always a matter of concern not only to the Government but to every right thinking citizen of the country also. Most of the constituencies record only about 50 per cent polling despite various steps taken by the Election Commission and the Government to improve the percentage.

Now, various consumer forums and other organisations have stepped in to improve the polling percentage. The Consumer Protection Council (Tamil Nadu) asks all citizens to vote without fail. The Deccan Consumer Rights Protection Council says the people should vote so that the best and committed candidates could be selected.

The Nambikkai Nanbargal Iyakkam organised awareness programmes at vantage points in Tiruchi on May 8. A team, led by its president, T. Shanmugasundaram, and general secretary, M. Ravichandran, met the people at the Junction, Central and Chinthamani bus stands, and distributed pamphlets and displayed stickers. Its members would telephone at least 10 friends and relatives on the polling day to remind them of their duty.

* * *

Annual festivals at Sri Amman temples are always confined to religious activities.

But a group, which has floated the `Sri Vekkali Amman Devotees Committee' in Tiruchi, has been using the Chithrai festival at the temple for a social cause.

Apart from making arrangements for the religious activities, it has been conducting free marriages for the benefit of the poor.

`We started this work seven years ago. So far, we have solemnised the marriage for 19 couples,' says P. Ravichandran, a member of the committee, which comprises about 30 members. Most of them are masons, electricians, carpenters and they meet the expenditure of conducting marriages.

A number of brides and bridegrooms have been seeking its assistance but only the poorest of the poor are identified for the free marriage programme.

* * *

The police are devising new ways to check escalation of thefts and robberies in residential areas.

At a recent meeting convened by the Inspector General of Police, Central Zone, S. George, the Commissioner of Police, T.P. Sundaramoorthy, and the Deputy Commissioners of Police, Maheshwar Dayal (law and order) and Mr. Arumugam (crime and traffic), decided a series of measures to keep anti-social elements at bay.

They decided to intensify patrolling — at least thrice a day — wherever houses were locked. In this regard, they want the public to inform about locked houses at the nearest police stations. They also want the public to avoid keeping valuables in almirahs and cupboards, which, according to their assessment, makes the task of the burglars easy.

As a trial measure, they have chosen nine places at Thillai Nagar to set up trap doors and maintain a constant vigil with the help of the public, service organisations and Friends of Police. If it succeeds, the concept will be extended to other residential pockets.

* * *

It might be true that the enhancement of deposit for candidates has reduced the length of the ballot paper.

But, it has not deterred a section of `independents' to file their nominations for the Tiruchi Lok Sabha constituency. Days after the date for withdrawal of candidature came to an end, a few with a `willing to strike but afraid to wound' syndrome retired from the contest expressing their support to some candidate or the other.

If publicity is what they want, they have achieved it. The only difference this time is the `publicity' has a higher price attached to it.

* * *

Proprietors of the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) retail outlets in the district were hardly concerned about the order instructing the closure of the outlets on May 9 and 10 and again on May 13, in view of the Lok Sabha polls.

Perhaps, the extra-sale over the past few days has compensated the likely `loss' in business due to the closure. Despite all talk of commitment and hard work of cadres by political leaders, campaign managers admit that dependence on IMFL stuff has easily been the safe bet to keep the cadres, if not the voters, in `high spirit'.

* * *

(Contributions from Syed Muthahar, M. Balaganessin and R. Krishnamoorthy in Tiruchi)

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