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Govt machinery intervening diligently in Sabarimala, says Kerala CM

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KOTTAYAM (KERALA), Dec 1: Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said the situation at Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala was under control amid a surging daily footfall and asserted the government machinery was intervening diligently in temple matters.

Stating that the hill shrine generally witnesses heavy rush during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, which began from November 17 this year, he said over 1.20 lakh devotees are offering worship at the temple daily this year, as per figures.

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As Sabarimala is a national pilgrimage centre, large number of devotees from the neighbouring states have also been arriving to offer worship, he said.

Vijayan was addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the Nava Kerala Sadas outreach programme in the district.

Coming under attack from opposition parties, including the Congress and the BJP over the government’s alleged failure in managing the heavy rush at the hill shrine, the chief minister deputed state Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan to Sabarimala.

Radharkishnan will reach Sannidhanam after assessing the amenities being provided to the pilgrims at Erumely, Nilackal, and Pamba, a government official said.

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Rejecting opposition criticism that the crowd management plans of the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board have failed, the CM said devotees are allowed to trek upwards only based on the rush at the Sannidhanam (temple complex) each time.

“Uncontrolled heavy rush cause some accidents beyond our control. So, we are handling matters with utmost care,” he said.

If an average of 62,000 people visited Sabarimala daily in the initial days of the last Mandalam pilgrimage season, the number had crossed 88,000 in the four days from December 6 in the ongoing season, he said.

Pilgrims from neighbouring states who could not visit the shrine earlier due to the flood in Chennai and the assembly election in Telangana are now coming in large numbers, he explained.

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In the wake of the heavy rush, the darshan timing was extended by one hour, Vijayan said.

The CM further said that over 20,000 pilgrims came through spot booking in the last few days, and an additional 5,000 people came through the traditional forest path.

“Altogether, more than 1.20 lakh pilgrims arrive in a day. Public holidays tend to be more crowded. As a result, pilgrims had to take more time to reach Sabarimala. This is what happened there in the last few days,” Vijayan said.

He added all necessary facilities are being provided to the pilgrims at the hill shrine, and it has also been decided to limit the spot booking as part of plans to manage the heavy rush.

Detailing the measures taken by his government for Sabarimala, he said a total of Rs 200 crore has been allocated in the last seven years under the Sabarimala masterplan.

He also rejected criticism that the absence of an adequate number of police personnel was the reason for the failure in crowd management.

The CM said as many as 16,118 police personnel were deployed at Sabarimala during the ongoing pilgrimage season.

Vijayan also slammed the opposition UDF MPs’ protest in front of the Parliament on Tuesday, seeking the Centre’s intervention in the Sabarimala issue, and urged them not to use the Lord Ayyappa temple for political gains.

There is no uncontrolled situation prevailing in Sabarimala, he said, adding that all government agencies are intervening in matters related to the shrine with the utmost caution.

Meanwhile, the death of a Sabarimala pilgrim was reported from the Pullumedu forest route on Wednesday.

Police said the pilgrim collapsed while heading to the shrine through the traditional forest route.

A police team has been sent to shift the body to the hospital, they said. (PTI)


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