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Top priority accorded by the Railways to safety of passengers by initiating various steps to sensitise the public has been appreciated in various quarters.

People are informed about safety aspects at railway stations through public address system. Besides, the department has displayed various stickers and boards in compartments to provide vital information and precautions. One such board displayed information regarding `emergency window' (with the legend — to exit during emergency, break the glass, pull out pin and lift window frame grill). Another board provides tips to prevent fire inside the compartment. The presence of alarm chain and how and when to use it is another valuable information which would be of immense help to the public.

However, what is causing concern is the display of messages in English and Hindi. Since a majority of the people in the State have no knowledge of Hindi, and a small section knows English, the public feel that the information should be written in Tamil, particularly in unreserved compartments.

* * *

The Tiruchi District Football Association has created a record of sorts when three former national football referees hailing from Tiruchi district have come out successful in the Tamil Nadu State Referees Instructors Course examinations conducted by the Tamil Nadu Football Association Referees Board.

C. Rengaraju and A. S. Pereira, both employed with the BHEL, and M. Sridharan, a BSNL employee, are the successful candidates. The course included theory, practical and match assessment. This is the first time in the history of TDFA that three referees have qualified as `TFA Referees Instructors.'

The fact that K. Ramasame, a former national referee, has been continuing as an All India Football Federation Referees Instructor for more than two years is another achievement. Dr. Ramasame, the present secretary of the TDFA, is a member of the TFA Referees Board.

* * *

The Tiruchi City Traffic Police and the State Transport Corporation authorities had a tough time from afternoon till late in the night on Sunday, when huge crowds thronged the Central Bus Stand to board buses for various destinations after the Pongal holidays.

The STC and the SETC operated special buses to clear the extra rush. The traffic police had announced regulation of traffic inside and in the vicinity of the Central Bus Stand to ensure free flow of traffic. The situation remained chaotic particularly in the evening hours and the police had a tough time regulating buses and directing them to allotted bays. At one point of time, the entire bus stand was jam-packed with vehicles and anxious people. The decision of the authorities to park buses bound for destinations such as Salem, Namakkal, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam etc. in new areas instead of regular bays caught the commuters on the wrong foot.

However the police and transport officials acted in a swift manner to guide them. All trains proceeding via Tiruchi Junction too were packed to their capacity.

* * *

A few restaurants in Tiruchi, especially those near the Central and Chathiram bus stands, where the floating population is high, provided their customers a `sweet taste' of their hospitality on the day of Pongal.

Along with any order placed with waiters, sweet pongal found a prominent place on the plate. The delight of customers was more over the joyful greetings of waiters with the `Happy Pongal' message than over the fact that the delicacy was offered as a freebie.

For the multitudes of customers on that day, who could have missed the Pongal celebrations at their homes, the smiling waiters invoked the festive spirit. As far as the restaurants were concerned, there could have been some expenditure on preparation of Pongal, but then they found to their joy that it was a vital investment in generating a tremendous goodwill.

* * *

The `jallikattu' held at Periyasuriyur village in the district on the day of `Mattu Pongal,' was not a high profile. But steady flow of spectators into the village gave the impression that it was not a small event either. It was so because it remains the only village in the district where the significance of `jallikattu' is felt. Such events held in subsequent days in various other villages do not attract such a crowd because they are held simultaneously and the crowd gets scattered.

Lack of adequate bus services did not deter people from various villages in the district from reaching there. They took all modes of transport and made `efficient use of the available resources.' While hundreds could be seen walking for quite a few kilometres from Mandaiyur on the Tiruchi-Pudukottai Highway to the interior village, there were also many who clung on to available modes of transport. Cars, jeeps and vans were virtually packed to every inch. The same was the case even with two-wheelers. It was a real adventure for two-wheeler riders to negotiate potholes-filled rugged paths, with two to three persons on the pillion.

* * *

A section of the public appeared baffled at bursting of firecrackers on the premises of the Tiruchi Railway Junction shortly after noon on the eve of Pongal.

It dawned on the public later that the frenzy could be the `accepted mode of expression of loyalty' by a devoted crowd of followers to some VIP or the other.

Later, it came to light that the bursting of crackers was a part of a welcome procedure, replete with the presence of an elephant, to a person who had just become an VIP. The guest, who had won a trade union election in New Delhi, was found overwhelmed by the welcome. He was ushered to the exit from the platform by his team of followers led by a music band, which added to the cacophony.

Only after all the noise came to an end that one could see khaki-clad gentlemen at the station speaking in hushed tones, about the legality of such a welcome procedure in public places, especially at railway stations.

* * *

(Contributions from Syed Muthahar Saqaf, Prathibha Parameswaran and R. Krishnamoorthy

in Tiruchi)

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