Palani authorities keep fingers crossed against yet another breakdown

Devotees, especially children and the elderly, will not have any difficulty in reaching the hill temple to have a darshan of Lord Sri Dhandayuthapaniswamy here as the rope car, suspended from service since June 6, will become operational by mid-August, according to temple authorities.

It is the most popular means of transportation for devotees to reach the sanctum.

The rope car had developed a snag and stopped midway, leaving 28 pilgrims dangling some 200 metres above the ground between the ground station and the Sri Dhandayuthapaniswamy hill temple on June 5.

A pair of winches was pressed into operation to ferry pilgrims following the breakdown of the rope car. It takes eight minutes to reach the top. But pilgrims baulked at the arrangement.

Said S. Kesavan from Palghat: “We have been waiting for hours to find a place on the winch. Our elderly parents and children had a tough time. The absence of the rope car has caused inconvenience to pilgrims. Those who cannot climb the steps have to depend on the winch service.”

After two major mishaps involving the rope car, temple authorities are taking no chances. The winches move slowly and are monitored by CCTVs.

Commissioned at a cost of Rs.4 crore, the rope car is faster than the winch. Pilgrims can’t wait for it to be operational again.

Launched in 2004 by the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the Mono Cable Fixed Grip Reversible Jig-Back Ropeway System, was introduced in the Palani temple with 20 cabins with a carrying capacity of 80 passengers per trip and a travel time of 2.8 minutes covering a distance of 320 metres.

Within a few months, it became a major income generator for the temple. In August 2007, the rope car was suspended when two cabins slipped from the cable killing four pilgrims.

The victims were two officials of the state cooperative milk society Aavin and their families.

After the mishap, technical changes were effected in the system. The number of cabins was reduced to eight from 20 and the speed reduced.

Originally, each cabin had a detachable system to enable it to detach from the rope and attach again for movement on the ground.

In the re-designed system, four cabins were fitted to the rope in clusters using the fixed grip system. One set of four cabins would start from the ground station and another set of four cabins would start simultaneously from the hill station. On September 2, 2008, the rope car service resumed only to suffer a breakdown yet again.

When contacted, a member of the technical crew from Calcutta said that repairing the rope car was delayed as a metal shaft was not readily available in the market. “We had to order it from the manufacturers. We received it only on Wednesday,” he added.

The temple’s electrical wing officials said that installation of the shaft would begin only after clearance from the technical safety committee.

The rest of the work involving alignment, checking and the trial run will be completed in 15 days. The car will be operational by the second week of August, authorities hope.

But eight cabins are still dangling in mid-air as the technical crew are unable to lower them until the giant wheel is able to rotate again. Meanwhile, the temple administration has cranked up its pace to implement the sophisticated Second Ropeway System with a carrying capacity of 1,200 to 1,400 pilgrims. Four international bidders and a domestic bidder competed in a global tender to bag the project. The tender will be opened in September, said an administration staff.

The ropeway system commissioned at a cost of Rs.36 lakh to transport ‘panchamritham’ to the hill temple has been functioning well.

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