Among the traders, those selling liquor through bar and restaurants, permit rooms and IMFL outlets did roaring business during Sankranti.

Particularly those from the rural background went on a liquor consumption-spree giving the Excise Department record revenue. "Though we are yet to aggregate the collections, the revenue has exceeded our expectations," an official said.

Kanuma, which is observed on the day following Makara Sankranti, is celebrated with all sorts of non-vegetarian items and playing of cards.

The IMFL outlets and belt shops cashed in on the festive mood by erecting shamianas and offering `buy one peg/beer and get one boiled egg or omelette free' schemes. Throughout the day, a `jatara-type' atmosphere prevailed with bars and permit rooms jam-packed with tipplers. The spirits were high, in true sense of term.

It is shocking how public sector banks continue to be apathetic to customer needs in spite of stiff competition from private banks. When a customer went to a PSU bank in Seethampeta for making entries in passbook on January 13, he was asked to come after festival since many of the staff members were on leave. But noticing his discomfort, one staffer explained: "If you insist, we will make the entries by hand. The teller is on leave and the computer printer is in his cabin." When the customer again went to the bank on Monday to withdraw some cash, there was a call for verification of signature from an officer inside. Meanwhile, the cashier closed the counter and left the place at the stroke of lunch and the customer was forced to wait for over half-an-hour till his return, for the payment.

When this was taken to the notice of the manager, he replied that those who went to private banks were coming back to them again, after all!

Salaried employment has been a much sought after goal and if it is a Government job much better. With assured monthly salary, perks and other benefits, a job is preferred to any other occupation. More and more people are turning away from agriculture, the main occupation in the rural areas. Emphasis is being laid on education not as an end in itself but to improve job opportunities. Not surprisingly, Commercial Taxes Minister Konathala Ramakrishna pointed out at the function to felicitate the best farmers in the district that most of the awardees were elderly persons. He wanted the educated younger generation to take up farming and not hanker for jobs.

"The landed young man is not considered an eligible bachelor and an employed one is preferred," he quipped in a lighter vein and wanted the trend to be changed.

Thanks to the benevolent intervention of Visakha-II MLA Saripalli Ranga Raju and Commercial Taxes Minister Konathala Satyanarayana, the move to dislocate the most popular Sampath Vinayaka Temple, near Aseelmetta junction, under the pretext of road widening, has been pushed to the backburner, thereby avoiding a needless standoff between devotees and the civic administration.

The two political bigwigs were convinced by the arguments put forward by well-meaning leading lights of the city like former Bar Council of India Chairman D.V. Subba Rao and former Rector of Andhra University A. Prasanna Kumar, who had explained the background of the temple and the significance of its structure and impressed on them that alternate methods of road widening without disturbing the existing structure of the temple should be explored. Mr. Ramakrishna has since directed Municipal Commissioner N. Srikant to re-design the proposed flyover, taking into account the sentiments of the devotees. Hopefully, a solution to the vexed issue could be found soon.

By Santosh Patnaik, Prabhakkar Sharma,
G.V. Prasada Sarma
and R. Sampath