Rameswaram (TN): A blanket ban on vehicular movement around the famous Lord Ramanathaswamy temple here, coming into effect from tomorrow as part of security measures in view of terror threat, has caused deep resentment among tour operators and residents.
The temple which attracts large number of pilgrims from across the country, especially those from north, and the entire Rameswaram island have recently been brought under heightened security cover following intelligent inputs that it might be attacked by terrorists coming by sea from Sri Lanka.
Police have already banned movement of four-wheelers and three-wheelers on the road circling the temple for the past three months and from tomorrow even two-wheelers, including bicyles, would not be allowed to ply.
DSP Mohanraj said they had banned movement of two-wheelers also around the temple from tomorrow. The ban would be lifted if necessary at a later point of time, he added.
However, the move has come under flak from pilgrim tour operators and others who described the new traffic regulations as `unfriendly` and said it was causing hardship to the pilgrims as well as local residents.
Local Municipality Chairman A Arjunan said autorickshaw drivers had been rendered jobless by the present move.
Officials could ask the autorickshaw drivers to drop the pilgrims and move away immediately and fine them heavily in case of violation, he said.
Most of the lodges are located around the temple and the pilgrims were being forced to walk nearly two km from bus stand and railway station, Vaikuntamoorthy, a retired police official now operating a travel agency, said today.
"If there is any security threat to the temple they can always install a scanner and check the vehicles, and baggage near the bus stand. Instead they have banned the entry of all the vehicles including two-wheelers and autorickshaws," M Balakrishnan Servai, a leading tour operator here, said.
Vaikuntamoorthy termed the regulations "atrocious" and said it was a pity to see pilgrims walking to the lodges carrying the luggage on their head and shoulders.
The operators say that if the island faces the security threat, police should streamline the security arrangement like in Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara. Vehicles coming into the island can be scanned at the entry point itself. They should seek such a foolproof arrangement for checking baggage.
The government could think of making alternative arrangement like operating the temple battery cars which were remaining idle `due to lack of maintenance`, they said.
BJP functionary Murali also criticised the police action and said they should not harass the pilgrims.
He said the temple had only one road circling it unlike in other major cities and it should not be a problem for the police to monitor such a small area.
Sundram, an autorickshaw driver, said they had been rendered jobless and even lodges lost business.