The crowd situation at Pampa and on the trekking path has become horrendous with the police blocking the pilgrim flow at the base camp as well as on the main trunk roads leading to Pampa on Tuesday.

An unidentified pilgrim, appeared to be in his 50s, who was waiting in the thickly packed barricades at Pampa died on Tuesday afternoon.

According to an eyewitness, the rush was so frightening and the pilgrims were put to untold hardship with the police periodically blocking the Sannidhanam-bound pilgrims at Pampa. The pilgrim who was waiting inside the barricade fainted and he was removed to the nearby hospital where he was declared dead.

Many pilgrims, especially children and the elderly, were reportedly showing giddiness owing to the long wait. The queue was found beyond the Triveni bridge by 1 p.m.

Vehicles blocked

The blocking of the Pampa-bound vehicular traffic on the Pathanamthitta-Pampa Road as well as the Erumeli-Elavumkal Road was traumatic experience for the pilgrims. A group of devotees from Bangalore told The Hindu that they had set off from Bangalore at 6 p.m. on Monday and reached Erumely by 6 p.m. on Tuesday. But it took more than 11 hours for them to reach Elavumkal from Erumely, covering 26 km, on Tuesday.

Many pilgrims were found to have been exhausted due to their long wait on the road in the middle of the forests that seldom have any refreshment facility or even drinking water supply. The case was not much different on the traditional trekking path where the pilgrims were blocked in separate segments at Sabaripeedhom, Marakkoottom, and Saramkuthy.

The supply of biscuits and medicated drinking water to the pilgrims waiting inside the barricades by the Travancore Devaswom Board too was affected owing to the heavy rush.

Harassment of pilgrims by certain police personnel too were reported. A 38-year-old pilgrim, M. Lingadurai, an ex-serviceman from Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu, complained to the Sannidhanam police that he and his son were detained and frisked by a few police personnel near Malikappuram for none of their fault.

In another incident, an employee attached to the environment wing of the TDB at Pampa was manhandled by the police and he was admitted to the Pampa Government Hospital, later, with acute stomach pain and backache.

Meanwhile, official sources at Sannidhanam said the slow pace of movement of pilgrims ascending the holy-18 steps leading to the Ayyappa Temple had also contributed to the long wait of pilgrims on the trekking path as well as the Valiya Nadapandal.

Many attributed to the overcrowding at the Sannidhanam to the deployment of inexperienced police personnel for assisting the pilgrims ascending the holy-18 steps.

‘Deploy Central forces’

Crowd management experts said that deploying Central forces for assisting the pilgrims on the holy-18 steps would be an ideal solution to address the present problem of overcrowding at Sabarimala. This idea was successfully experimented on a rush day at Sabarimala two weeks ago, they said.

M.P. Govindan Nair, TDB president; K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court; P. Venugopal, Devaswom Commissioner, and A. Hemachandran, Additional Director General of Police, are camping at Sabarimala.

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