To the 650 Tamil workers attached to the Sabarimala Sanitation Society (SSS) chaired by Pathanamthitta District Collector, cleaning the pathways, resting places and other areas in the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa is nothing short of an “opportunity to serve the Lord”.
SSS has recruited 650 sanitation workers from the Kambom, Theni, Salem and Madurai areas of Tamil Nadu with the help of the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom (ABASS), Madurai unit, for conducting the cleaning drive at Sabarimala during the two-month long annual pilgrim season.
All these workers belong to poor Tamil families who believe that keeping the pilgrims’ paths as well as the Sannidhanam clean are the best ways to serve Lord Ayyappa.
The SSS provides them with Rs. 150 as daily wages, besides food, accommodation, two pairs of uniforms, footwear, bathing soaps and coconut oil for the 12-hour-shifts at the heavily littered pilgrim centre during the heavy rush of the annual pilgrim season.
The SSS came into force in 1995 and was the brainchild of the then District Collector, K.B. Valsalakumari. The Collector who had witnessed the sad state of sanitation at Sabarimala during an inspection in October, 1995, had constituted the SSS. Her successor Inderjit Singh, further strengthened the SSS by introducing insurance cover to all the Tamil workers, later.
The Ayyappa Seva Sanghom has been extending active support to the district administration for the smooth running of the sanitation machinery.
The SSS has already launched an intensive waste-disposal drive at Sabarimala, many parts of which have almost been turned into a filth yard following the Makarajyoti darshan on January 14.
Mr. N. Mahesan, former Revenue Divisional Officer, the SSS co-ordinator at Sabarimala, told The Hindu that the sanitation drive would continue for two more days after the closing of the temple so as to clear all waste material from the nook and cranny of the pilgrim to the sewage treatment plant as well as the incinerator yards.
Cleaning the river Pampa of discarded clothes and other waste is another difficult task for the SSS.