October 18, 2006

'Uncivic' civic elections - Part II

We paid a small price for closely covering the elections to the local bodies.
Our photographer was assaulted and our pictures were 'censored'.
Rajesh, our photographer at the 'Arcot Road Times' newspaper ( which covers the neighbourhoods in the Ashok Nagar to Valasarawakkam spread) and reporter V. Soundara Rani were on duty on Sunday last, covering the elections to the Valasarawakkam Municipality.
They rushed to a booth at a local school when they heard that gangs were forcing their way into them.
The duo had got a taste of the rowdyism and violence on Friday when they had covered the elections to the wards of the Chennai Corporation. But they did not shy away from their second round of reportage since this particular newspaper covers the city's civic body as well as the municipality.
A gang spotted Rajesh shooting pictures, went for him, gave him a few blows, snatched his camera, ripped out the memory chip and had it not been for the intervention by reporter Soundara Rani, the gang would have made away with the costly camera or smashed it in animalistic frenzy.
The duo were shaken and when they went down to the Valasarawakkam Police Station to file a complaint about three hours after the incident, the man on duty said they had come very late.
It required the duo to press the police to register their complaint and took another three calls before a FIR was recorded and a copy handed over to them on Wednesday morning.
Nothing much will come out of this case.
As may the cases related to scores of media people who have been assaulted in the polling that has just gone by.
But this is not going to dampen our efforts to cover and report local issues closely.
As community newspapers we have consistently reported on the functions of the local body and of the councillors who represent the neighbourhood.
We would like to do more. Look at the proposals that councillors put up, look at the monies that are alloted to them, keep a tab on the projects and their progress. And investigate the performance of the zonal council, the Municipality and its officers.
But we have limited resources and this limits us.
However, active involvement of residents and professionals in the function and performance of our local bodies can make our neighbourhoods much better.
There are scores of senior citizens who can bring their experience and stature to play in our local bodies.
But very few voluntarily participate in local affairs.
Why, how many of us raised our voices against the farcical elections that were held last Friday?

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