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Kerala CM dismisses Cong allegations of lack of amenities in Sabarimala

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62,000 pilgrims visited the hill shrine daily during first 19 days of Mandala Pooja (strap)

IDUKKI (KERALA), Dec 12: Amidst complaints of lack of basic amenities and safety measures in Sabarimala, Kerala chief Mmnister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said nothing unusual has happened at the Lord Ayyappa temple this time and urged officials to make necessary intervention to inform the public about the new arrangements and systems put in place there.

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He directed the officials concerned to ensure a more coordinated system to manage the heavy rush and provide necessary facilities for pilgrims at the hill shrine.

He also criticised the UDF MPs who protested in front of Parliament raising the issue of alleged lack of facilities for Ayyappa pilgrims.

The CM directed that arrangements should be made in such a way that it is beneficial for the pilgrims.

He was speaking during a special review meeting held at Thekkady amidst the ongoing Nava Kerala outreach programme in the district.

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An average of 62,000 pilgrims visited the hill shrine daily during the first 19 days of the Mandala Pooja season, a CMO statement quoting him said.

In the four days since December 6, the number of pilgrims has increased to 88,000 and this was the cause of the huge rush, he said.

The darshan time has been increased by one hour to resolve the issue, he further said and suggested to limit the spot booking.

“Nothing unusual has happened in Sabarimala. It is necessary to inform the people about the arrangements and the facilities that have been put in place there,” he said.

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Steps should also be taken to counter the fake news spread in connection with Sabarimala and efforts should be taken to create awareness and inform the people about the arrangements and facilities at the shrine, Vijayan added.

Intervention should be made to counter the false narrative being spread inside and outside the state and authorities including the Devaswom President should remain at Sabarimala and to coordinate this, he further said.

Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan, Forest Minister AK Saseendran, Chief Secretary V Venu, Devaswom Board President P S Prashant, State Police Chief Sheikh Darvesh Sahib, Collectors and other officials took part in the meeting via online.

Later, while speaking at a programme as part of the Nava Kerala Sadas here, Vijayan criticised the Congress-UDF MPs who protested outside Parliament on Tuesday demanding adequate facilities and safety measures for pilgrims at Sabarimala.

“The UDF is not ready to expose the discrimination shown by the Union government towards Kerala. They refuse to address the bias shown towards Kerala and are eager to please the BJP. They are standing with the BJP which is harming the prospects of Kerala,” the CM alleged.

While the state government is trying to explain to the people the efforts being made to destroy the federal system, constitutional values and challenges faced by secularism in the country, the UDF MPs are using their time to defame the state in Parliament.

“They are seeking the Union government’s interference in the Sabarimala issue. This is a move that may scare the pilgrims from other states,” he said.

Vijayan also rejected the UDF allegation that the state government was not paying much attention to the Sabarimala issue.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress criticised the Left government on the Sabarimala issue and accused it of failing to ensure basic amenities for the pilgrims at the shrine.

Leader of opposition in the assembly V D Satheesan said unprecedented incidents are happening in connection with Sabarimala pilgrimage.

“Many pilgrims from neighbouring states are ending their pilgrimage abruptly at Pandalam due to the heavy rush,” he told reporters in Kochi.

Stating that devotees are forced to stand in queue for over 20 hours, he charged that neither the state government nor the Devaswom Board is showing any responsibility to address their plight.

The Devaswom minister has gone for a 44-day tour and the chief minister and the other ministers are shying away from their responsibilities, he further charged.

The LoP said a UDF team, led by Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan MLA, has gone to Pamba, the base camp, to understand the issues faced by the pilgrims.

“We will prepare the suggestions and hand them over to the government soon,” he added.

Meanwhile, activists of the Youth Congress took out a protest march to the Travancore Devaswom Board Headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram alleging failure of the TDB in ensuring facilities for pilgrims. (PTI)

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