Sabarimala rush: Devaswom minister slams fake campaigns, says number of pilgrims increased

Minister K Radhakrishnan addresses media. Photo: Manorama News

Pathanamthitta: Kerala Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan criticised what he called the 'fake campaigns' against the government and Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) over the alleged lapses in crowd management in Sabarimala. He pointed out that some groups of people have been exaggerating the issues in Sabarimala temple due to the heavy rush of pilgrims. 

“Over 1.2 lakh people visited Sabarimala on December 7. This is marked as the highest number of pilgrims this season. Compared to previous years, there's a 30 per cent increase in the number of women and children visiting the shrine. The number of elderly and differently abled also has gone up. Women, children, the elderly and the differently abled people can't ascend the 'pathinettam padi' (the holy 18 steps) easily. So it is observed that the delay in allowing these people to have darshan led to the long queues along with the huge rush. This is not the first time that the temple has witnessed such an issue. In 2015, pilgrims had waited in queues for 15 to 20 hours,” the minister told the media after a meeting summoned to review the arrangements in the temple.

Rush in Sabarimala. Photo: Manorama

Despite the Board's efforts to manage the crowd, a huge number of people are reaching the temple without booking for darshan, the minister said. "The limit of virtual queue booking was slashed to 80,000 per day and spot registration also limited in view of the crowding. But nearly 5,000 pilgrims are ascending to the hill shrine through other routes without using the booking facility,” he noted. 

At the same time, he also criticised the protest at Erumeli which was held seeking food, drinking water and toilet facilities. “The government has assured all basic amenities at Erumeli. But some people are exaggerating isolated cases to defame the pilgrimage. KSRTC is operating more services in this pilgrimage season compared to last year. It is ready to deploy more services in case of emergency,” he added.

He alleged that some people with vested interests are using the Sabarimala issue for their gains. 

The government and the Board have come under fire as the pilgrims continued to complain about the long queues and lapses in crowd management. A 12-year-old girl collapsed and died while standing in the queue for darshan. Responding to this incident, the minister asserted that the girl was suffering from heart-related ailments. 

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