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Sunday, February 19, 2012

UP polls: When a tiger scares away 350 voters

MALIHABAD (UTTAR PRADESH): The overzealous state machinery might be sparing no effort to facilitate safe voting for a security-conscious Chief Minister Mayawati inside the premises of a school in Lucknow. But, just 28 km away in rural Malihabad constituency, people are afraid to vote, living as they do in the fear of being stalked by a tiger on the prowl.
The apathy on the part of local authorities was clearly spelt out by Lucknow DIG Police D.K.Thakur, who told mediapersons Sunday morning: "Why should people be scared of the tiger during the day, when the animal has been striking only at night?"
"After all, they have been living with the tiger around for so many weeks and it has not attacked a single human being," said Thakur, when asked if any special arrangement was being made to restore confidence of the people against the tiger menace.
Helpless villagers are least enthusiastic about venturing out to poll and risk their lives. "Why should I go to vote when the government has not cared to rid of this tiger who has made our lives miserable for the past one-and-a-half month," asked 25-year-old Sanjay of Urlapur village.
According to Ram Sewak, 57, of Dugauli village, "The route to the polling booth is so deserted and so close to the forest where the tiger has been hiding that we rather keep ourselves inside our homes."
What was strange that even wildlife authorities have failed to do anything concrete to relieve the villagers of the tension on account of the tiger, which has devoured and attacked their cattle on several occasions. The village is located in the midst of a tiny forest patch in Rehmankhera, around 150 km away, where the tiger had apparently strayed from the thick of the wild.
"The authorities do not seem to be serious because the wild cat has not eaten up any human being, they are only waiting for that to happen," said a villager.
Another villager Ramesh told IANS: "Neither political parties nor officials were bothered, because there were only about 350 votes here."
People were seen working in the fields, children were playing about, men were going about on bicycles and motorcycles, but clearly, they were scared of trudging along the 2 km road running along the forest patch to reach their polling station. A residents of Ulrapur claimed, "Even most candidates were afraid to venture out in the forest to campaign and ask villagers to vote for them."
The last round of the seven-phased election to the 403 member assembly in India's most populous and politically crucial state will be held March 3 and votes counted March 6.
Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections

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