An overzealous state machinery may have left no stone unturned to convert one particular school premises into a VVIP polling centre for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, but 28 km away in Lucknow's rural Malihabad constituency, there is no semblance of even basic security for locals living under the fear of a tiger that has been on the prowl.
Even though locals were not deterred by the lurking wild cat that strayed from the forests of Lakhimpur-Kheri, the apathy on the part of local authorities was clearly spelt out by Lucknow DIG Police D K Thakur. "Why should people be scared of the tiger during the day when the animal has been striking only at night," Thakur told reporters.
Thakur, who was busy supervising the high-level security arrangements for the chief minister's polling, when asked if any special arrangement was being made to restore confidence in the people, said, "They have been living with the tiger around for so many weeks and it has not attacked a single human being."
Even though some villagers were too scared to risk their lives, there were some who felt it was pointless to vote. "Why should I go to vote when the government has not cared to get rid of this tiger who has made our lives miserable for the past one-and-a-half months," asked 25year-old Sanjay of Urlapur village.
Paraghi Lal from neighbouring Dugauli village, however, felt, "It was important for everyone to vote even though we know that the route to the polling booth lies close to the forest where the tiger has been hiding." Ram Naresh Yadav of the same village said, "We have found a solution to the problem by going to the polling booth in large groups."
Indra Kumar Rawat of Meethinagar went a step further by declaring, "I decided to go and vote irrespective of the fear of the tiger. After all death is destined, so if one has to die, no one can save you."
The village is located in the midst of a tiny forest patch in Rehmankhera area, where the tiger had apparently strayed. Officials have failed to tranquillise the animal that they have spotted only once so far. The common feeling in villages around is that "the authorities do not seem to be serious because the wild cat has not attacked any human being. They are only waiting for that to happen".
Strangely, even wildlife authorities have failed to do anything concrete to relieve the villagers in spite of the tiger attacked their cattle on several occasions.
Interestingly, some others were of the view that the answer to the tiger menace lay in better facilities in the area. "Even though we are barely 28 km from the state capital, we do not get electricity; there is only one hand-pump for drinking water. We do not even have proper roads. If these basic amenities were there, we would have been able to face the tiger's threat more strongly. But who cares?" said Mahipal of Dugauli.
Sure enough, the locals are braving it out. No wonder people were seen working in the fields, while children played about. Men on bicycles and motorcycles were heading to their destination -- the polling booth.