For stencil cutters of Palakkarai, elections are no longer the same

Not many takers for their craft due to restrictions imposed on wall writings

It is election season, but business is dull for stencil cutters of Palakkarai in Tiruchi.

Until a couple of decades ago, when political parties and candidates, especially Independents, used stencils to popularise their symbols, elections used to bring substantial revenue to them.

Stencilling offered an easy way of painting symbols — by holding the thin sheet in place and painting over it with a brush — and anybody could print a symbol on the wall in no time.

But with the Election Commission bringing in restrictions on wall writings to prevent defacement of public places, there are not many takers for the technique these days.

“I have received just one order so far. I do not expect too many,” says K. Shanmugam, a stencil cutter at Palakkarai.

“A few Independents may come after their symbols are allotted. But these days, there is not much demand, except during local body polls when there are several candidates and fewer restrictions,” he points out.

A third standard drop out, Shanmugam, 47, has been in the family business since childhood.

There was a time when traders kept many stencils ready and hung them outside their shop so that partymen could purchase it across the counter. Nowadays, however, stencil makers take up work only when an order is placed.

There are some 50 traders in the locality, but only a handful are skilled like Shanmugam. First, he paints the symbols on iron sheets by hand before carving out the stencil.

“This way, it takes about half-a-day to make a stencil, but the images come out clearer. We are just four or five here now who do it this way. There are others who stick a print of the image or symbol and cut the stencil,” he adds.

Nevertheless, Shanmugam feels that it is good that the Election Commission has restricted wall writings. He manages to eke out a living by doing stencils for other purposes. He also fabricates other products using iron sheets such as science models for college and school students for project work.

“Still it is a hand-to-mouth existence. I have two kids and I have to pay rent for the shop and house. When business is dull, I take loans to make both ends meet,” he says.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:59:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/for-stencil-cutters-of-palakkarai-elections-are-no-longer-the-same/article26592579.ece

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