The badly damaged Swami Ayyappan Road has claimed yet another life the other day stressing the alarming need for improvement of this lone road leading to Sabarimala from Pampa on a warfooting basis.
A 42-year old man was killed on the spot and a 29-year old driver was injured when a tractor carrying rice from Sabarimala Sannidhanam met with an accident on the narrow, dilapidated forest road on Friday.
According to devaswom sources, the deceased Vijayakumar alias Balan from Thiruvananthapuram was a small-scale vendor at the holy hillock.
The injured tractor driver, Jijo from Thrissur, has been admitted to Kottayam Medical College Hospital, later. The driver had reportedly lost control over the vehicle plying on the road after hitting the pedestrian and falling in a dip, sources said.
Two workers were killed, earlier, when a tractor carrying goods to the Sannidhanam along the ravaged Swami Ayyappan Road turned turtle in November, 2010.
Though the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Devaswom Minister had promised widening and proper improvement of the Swami Ayyappan Road well ahead of the annual pilgrimage season two years ago, no effective step has been taken to implement the project, so far.
The High Power Committee for implementation of Sabarimala Master Plan too had promised improvement of the road well before the previous Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season. But, the sad state of this lone motorable path linking Pampa and Sabarimala still remains a dream, posing threat to the pilgrims as well as the tractors plying on the road.
TDB had submitted a detailed project report and estimated at Rs 5.6 crore for widening and improvement of the Swami Ayyappan Road to five metres from its present width of 3 metres in 2010. However, the project still remains a non-starter for want of the mandatory clearance for the same from the Kerala High Court, according to board sources.
TDB sources told The Hindu that the estimate prepared two years ago might have gone up by not less than Rs 1 crore owing to escalation of material cost during the past two years.
The Court was of the view that various projects, including the road widening work, should be implemented through sponsorship which is not that easy in the case of many major construction projects, say sources.
According to devaswom sources, not less than 250 tonne of rice, jaggery balls, coconuts and other articles have been transported in tractors from Pampa to Sannidhanam for prasadom preparation alone during the previous Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.
This is besides the transportation of construction materials, articles of various shopkeepers, hoteliers, Government departments, and the Sabarimala Sanitation Society.
As many as 45 tractors were deployed at Sabarimala for goods transportation along the Swami Ayyappan Road on a daily basis and each tractor used to conduct not less than three trips a day, taking a maximum load of 1.5 tonne each, during the previous pilgrimage season, according to official sources.
Now, with the monsoon in the offing, carrying out any major earth work will be quite difficult for the next two months. With five months left for the next annual pilgrimage season, the authorities have to take hectic efforts to correct whatever flaws occurred for the execution of the long-pending road improvement project.