Not overcharging Sabarimala pilgrims: KSRTC to Kerala HC

Kochi: The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on Tuesday denied in the High Court the allegation that it was overcharging pilgrims going to Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, saying it was charging fares which were lesser than what it was permitted to.

KSRTC also denied the charge that sufficient number of buses were not being provided and said that it has allotted 375 buses to ply during the Makaravilakku season and from November 14 to December 1 approximately 4,52,698 pilgrims have utilised its services to travel from Nilakkal to Pamba, on the foothills of Sabarimala, and back.

"In addition to 128 buses operating from Nilakkal to various places, KSRTC is considering the scope of increasing services to Palani, Coimbatore and Thenkasi and also to extend its services to Madurai and Chennai as well," it informed the high court.

It also told the court that as against the actual fares of Rs 56 and Rs 106 for low floor non A/C and A/C buses respectively, it was only charging pilgrims Rs 50 and Rs 80.

"Having considered the submissions made by the counsel on both sides, we find that necessary arrangements have already been made by KSRTC and also the Travancore Devaswom Board for transportation of pilgrims from Nilakkal to Pamba and back," the court noted.

The submissions were made in a plea initiated by the court, based on a report by the Special Commissioner, Sabarimala, that complaints have been received from pilgrims alleging that excess bus fare was being collected by KSRTC and sufficient number of buses were not being provided.

KSRTC also told the court that if any request is made by groups having a minimum 40 persons, they will be permitted to be carried in a single bus from Nilakkal to Pamba and back.

"Such groups will also have the facility for online booking through KSRTC Web Portal," it said.

The state government told the court that pilgrims coming from other states as a group of 40 or 50 persons, holding virtual-Q coupons, will be permitted to proceed to the Sannidhanam even beyond the time limit prescribed in the respective coupons, subject to the availability of open slots.

After hearing all sides, the court asked the state government and the Travancore Devaswom Board to "give wide publicity through print and visual media about the aforesaid facilities available to pilgrims, so that more number of devotees can have Sabarimala darshan".

With the direction, the court closed the matter.

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