A conference of southern States, jointly convened by the Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board here on Sunday decided to take coordinated steps for the smooth conduct of the coming Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrim season at the hill shrine.

Inaugurating the conference, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the setting up of an Inter State Council as a permanent mechanism for coordination of activities and the decision to provide land at Nilackel for the other southern States for constructing guest houses and information centres for the pilgrims from their respective States were the major breakthrough in the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.

Though a ministerial-level meeting could not be held as desired, the Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had evinced a keen interest in the ideas mooted by Kerala for coordinated efforts to ensure better facilities for pilgrims, Mr. Chandy said

To meet twice

Later, speaking to journalists after the conference, Kerala Minister for Devaswoms V.S. Sivakumar and chairman of the High Power Committee on Sabarimala K Jayakumar said the Inter State Council would meet at least twice a year — once on the eve of the pilgrim season and the other after the season.

One of the meetings would be in Kerala and the other, in one of the other southern States.

On the decision to allot land of not more than five hectares at Nilackel to the neighbouring States, they said the handing over of the land would be effected after the conclusion of this pilgrim season.

It has also been decided to set up Sabarimala Cells in Thiruvananthapuram and capitals of other southern States for effective coordination.

Clean campaign

A “Clean Sabarimala” campaign would be formally launched on November 7 by Mr. Chandy. Over 300 volunteers from Kerala and other southern States would participate in the campaign and clean up the stretch from Sabarimala to Pamba.

During this pilgrim season, specialist doctors and modern medical equipment from other States would be pressed into service, Mr. Sivakumar said.

Security manual

A security manual prepared by Kerala would be brought out in other South Indian languages. It would detail the dos and don'ts during the pilgrimage.

The motor vehicle departments in other States would be asked to ensure that vehicles from their respective States conformed to the existing rules and regulations while carrying pilgrims to Sabarimala.

The raising of Rs.150 crore for the proposed Sabarimala Masterplan Infrastructure Fund with assistance from other southern States was also discussed, Mr. Jayakumar and Mr. Sivakumar said.

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