Crowd control in Sabarimala: CM summons high-level meeting today

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Sabarimala. Photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has summoned a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss the arrangements to be carried out for controlling the crowd in Sabarimala temple. The meeting will be held at the chamber of the assembly house here on Monday at 11 am.

Over one lakh people visited the hill shrine in the last few days. A huge rush was witnessed in Sannidhanam and Nadapanthal areas as more pilgrims started to visit the temple during the Mandala pilgrimage season. Children who got trapped in the crowd were shifted to safe spots by the police. A rope was placed to control the rush at the temple.
It is learnt that the cold war between the police and Travancore Devaswom Board toppled the crowd management in the temple. Pilgrims are having a tough time waiting in queue for more than 12 hours.

As per reports, TDB’s decision to replace the ‘Punyam Poonkavanam’ project implemented by the police with a new project named ‘Pavithram Sabarimala’ irked the police. While the TDB fell into a tiff with police after the latter arranged special parking at Pamba near Triveni.

At present, a team of 10 police led by a Circle Inspector is on duty at Padinettam Padi to ease the darshan for pilgrims. Though it was planned to allow 90 pilgrims per minute, less than 70 are only allowed per minute even after witnessing a huge rush.

According to police, only 60 pilgrims will be able to ascend the Padinettampadi per minute without any rush. But nowadays, over 80 are allowed, claimed police.

When police are demanding to control the number of pilgrims through virtual booking, TDB took a stance to allow 1.2 lakh people for darshan. If over one lakh people reach the shrine every day, the number of vehicles will also go up aggravating the parking issues, said police.

Darshan till 11.30 pm on busy days

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court issued a slew of directions to the TDB and police regarding crowd management and control of vehicular traffic to ensure smooth darshan. The HC proposed an extension of the time of worship for devotees by an hour on busy days. With this, the authorities have decided to allow darshan till 11.30 pm on days of high footfall.
Regarding the management of vehicular traffic on the routes to Sabarimala, the court directed the District Police Chief to arrange patrolling on motorcycles when the movement of vehicles is blocked for long periods.

"In case the movement of vehicles is blocked for a considerably long period, the Travancore Devaswom Board shall make necessary arrangements for providing 'chukkuvellam' (water) and biscuits to pilgrims in such vehicles," it said.

It further directed that when parking grounds at Nilakkal in Pathanamthitta reaches the maximum capacity, entry of vehicles has to be regulated appropriately by the police.

"The restrictions imposed on the parking of vehicles at Nilakkal parking grounds shall be made known to the pilgrims, through the public address systems at transit points (edathavalam)," the bench said. Edathavalams are halting points for pilgrims.

The TDB was also directed to ensure that the parking contractor engages sufficient staff to ensure proper parking of vehicles.

The court's directions came on three separate pleas initiated by it on its own with one regarding the management of the virtual queue system and the other two based on individual complaints on restrictions on the entry of vehicles from Nilakkal to Pamba and difficulties faced by pilgrims at Nilakkal and Pamba in the absence of queue system for the passengers boarding KSRTC buses.

All three were taken up in the special sitting in view of the crowd management issues faced on Saturday at the shrine.

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