Dolly workers in crisis as devotees restricted from visiting Sabarimala due to COVID-19
Kumaly: Dolly workers in Sabarimala are facing threat to their livelihood due to the pandemic outbreak. As devotees are restricted from visiting the Lord Ayappa temple, a large number of dolly workers went jobless. They complained that they did not receive any financial assistance from the government so far.
Aged and differently-abled people depend on dollies to reach Sannidanam from Pamba. They are engaged to serve the devotees irrespective of their weight, language or ethnicity.
Usually, these workers get a good amount of income during Mandala pilgrimage season, Vishu and monthly pooja time. They spent a whole year using the money they receive from carrying people on the dolly.
Devaswom receives crores
A dolly worker has to pay Rs 200 to devaswom for each trip. Over 600 dollies are operating service in Pamba. Hence, the Travancore Devaswom has been receiving crores of money from the poor dolly workers during every pilgrimage season. But neither the TDB nor the government is taking any steps to help the dolly workers who went jobless.
1500 dolly workers
“Over 1500 workers from Kumaly, Vandiperiyar, Peerumedu and Kattappana are arriving in Pamba to lift devotees on dollies. Most of them have been engaged in the work for the last 30 years,” said a dolly worker Suresh Vandiperiyar
In the previous Mandala pilgrimage season, a dolly worker earned Rs 50,000 to Rs 80,000. But this time, they only received below Rs 35,000.
As the dolly lifting job is no more practical, these workers have started to go for other jobs to look after their families, he added.
When the floods ravaged the state in the last two years, chairs on the dollies kept in Pamba were washed away. So, the poor workers spent Rs 10,000 to purchase new chairs. Rs 2500 was also spent to make the dolly ready for service. Most of the workers are struggling for repayment of their loans. Hence, they have started to search for a permanent job.
“The government is not considering the pathetic situation of these poor workers. Over 1000 dolly carriers in the district are struggling to find the money for daily expenditure. The authority should take action to help the workers apart from neglecting them as unorganised labourers,” said Majo Karimuttom, a social worker.