The lone road from Pampa to Sabarimala has been in a dilapidated condition for long

The recent death of a small-scale vendor at Sabarimala in an accident on Swami Ayyappan Road underscores the need for repair of this lone road from Pampa to Sabarimala.

The deceased, 42-year-old Vijayakumar, alias Balan, from Thiruvananthapuram, who was on foot was killed on the spot when a tractor carrying rice from Sabarimala Sannidhanam hit him on the narrow, dilapidated forest road on Friday. The tractor driver, 29-year-old Jijo from Thrissur, was admitted to the Kottayam Medical College Hospital with injuries. He reportedly lost control of the vehicle and hit Vijayakumar. The vehicle then landed in a pothole on the road, Travancore Devaswom Board sources said. Earlier in November 2010, two workers were killed when a tractor carrying goods to Sannidhanam along the road overturned.

Though the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Devaswom Minister had promised widening and proper development of the road well ahead of the annual pilgrimage season two years ago, nothing significant has been done so far.

The high-power committee for implementation of the Sabarimala Master Plan too had promised improvement of the road before the previous Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) had in 2010 submitted a detailed project report and estimated the cost of widening and improving the road to 5 metres from its width of 3 metres at Rs.5.6 crore.

However, the project remains a non-starter for want of mandatory clearance from the Kerala High Court, board sources said.

The sources told The Hindu that the estimate prepared two years ago would have gone up by at least Rs.1 crore owing to escalation in cost of materials.

The court was of the view that various projects, including road widening work, should be implemented through sponsorship. This was not very easy in the case of major construction projects, the sources said.

They said over 250 tonnes of rice, jaggery, coconut, and other articles were transported in tractors from Pampa to Sannidhanam for prasadom preparation alone during the previous Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.

This was besides the transportation of construction material, articles of various shopkeepers, hoteliers, government departments, and the Sabarimala Sanitation Society.

Now, with the monsoon forecast to set in soon, carrying out any major earth work would be very difficult. With five months left for the next annual pilgrimage season, the authorities have their work cut out to make the road motorable.