N. Saraswathi from Vilangudi, who works at a textile unit, received her salary only on Friday, three days ahead of Deepavali. On Sunday, she had come with her two children to buy dresses for the festival.
The likes of Saraswathi formed the majority of the crowd who thronged the city’s main shopping areas near Vilakuthoon, Masi streets, and Netaji Road for Deepavali shopping with just a day left for the festival. “Generally, it is predominantly the people from lower income groups who do shopping at the last minute for Deepavali since they have to borrow or wait for their wages. That is why we also set up our shops a week ahead of the festival,” said R. Dhanasekaran, a hawker selling saris near Vilakkuthoon.
On Sunday, the key shopping areas in the city, particularly Vilakkuthoon and the South and East Masi Streets were a sea of people.
N. Murugan, who works at a small textile shop near Vilakkuthoon, said that the crowd was noticeably high on the weekend before Deepavali since the festival fell on the first week of the month this year.
“Even many middle class families were waiting for their salary or bonus to get credited on the first of the month to do the shopping,” he said.
The stretch of Kamarajar Salai from Munichalai junction to Vilakkuthoon was lined up by hawkers on both sides of the road, selling clothes and a variety of other items. R. Murugesh, who was selling undergarments on a bicycle, said that Sunday and Monday were the last two days for hawkers like him to make profit. “We borrow money on interest to buy these items from wholesale shops. We just hope that rain does not play spoilsport till Deepavali as it will affect our sales heavily,” he said.
A large number of police personnel were deployed for regulating the crowd and also to prevent any untoward incidents.
The police had imposed restrictions on movement of vehicles by banning entry of all vehicles except two-wheelers on Masi streets, Avani Moola streets and Netaji Road. However, even two-wheelers could not enter these roads as it was full of people.
A stage was set up at about 10-feet-high at Vilakkuthoon for the police to monitor the crowd and act as a help centre for the public. “Around 10 people have reported on Sunday alone about persons lost in the crowd. We made announcements and managed to find most of them,” a Sub Inspector of Police said.
Madurai city police have also deployed drone cameras to monitor the crowd and prevent theft.
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