Plea to declare Sabarimala a National Pilgrim centre
Kochi: Making a strong pitch to declare the hill shrine of Sabarimala a National Pilgrim centre, an organisation of devotees from the southern states demanded better facilities and hygienic conditions for the around four crore devotees visiting the temple annually.
Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam (SASS) today alleged that Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, and the state government had failed to provide basic facilties for pilgrims coming from all over the country.
S Sudarshan Reddy, All India Vice-Chariman and B Jayaprakash, General Secretary-Karnataka, of the Samajam, alleged devotees were forced to sleep in unhygenic surroundings; no separate toilets and bathrooms were provided for elderly women and small children, and there was no proper drinking water supply.
They said that while 600 rooms were set apart as VIP cottages for politicians and others, only 400 rooms were alloted for devotees. During peak season, the board charged Rs 25,000 per room.
The Samajam said the board`s decision to stop work of its Annadhana Mandapam was a "clear conspiracy" hatched by the board, Devasom contractors and hotel lobby in Sabarimala.
`Annadhana kendras` of the Samajam serve about 18,000 devotees per day during Mandala Makaravilakku season between Nov 16-Jan 20. About 3,000 kg of food is prepared a day in the kendra, which works round the clock with two batches of cooking teams.
The cost per meal for a breakfast, lunch or dinner, at a total cost of Rs 2.5 crore for 10,98,000 persons for 61 days, worked out to be Rs 22.77. The same in a hotel was Rs 80 leaving the Samajam with a loss of about Rs 8.78 crore during the period, they said.
The Samajam also faced TDB`s ire over refusal to pay Rs 10,000 per day from Nov 16-Jan 9, 15 and 19 this year, Rs one lakh per day from Jan 10-14 and Rs one lakh additional deposit to Sabarimala Annadhanam Trust for cleaning and security charges.
Reddy said if the board was incapable of handling basic facilties for four crore devotees visiting the shrine annually, it should provide online darshan booking system state-wise during festival seasons on the lines of Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam to ensure maximum safety of pilgrims.
Though the recommendations of various commissions, including the high power committee on Sabarimala masterplan had suggested a safety commissioner with executive powers, they have not been implemented so far, it alleged.
The Samajam has forwarded a petition to Kerala Human Rights Commission on the violations which has been forwarded to the Ombudsman.
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