Hundreds of pilgrims from different parts of south India were stranded in the Sabarimala forests for several hours, with the police blocking vehicular traffic on the main trunk road to Pampa at Plappally, Elavumkal and Nilackal from Sunday night.
Pilgrims, including elderly women and children, were held up without drinking water and food.
“The State government and temple authorities have made poor arrangements for the pilgrimage season. Even the policemen who blocked us on the road were not able to answer our questions and we were not even provided with drinking water or any other basic facility,” lamented Rameswara Rao from Vijayawada, who claimed he was held up on the main trunk road at Plappally for about seven hours on Monday.
A bus driver from Villupuram in Tamil Nadu said 60 pilgrims who went to the holy hillock two days ago were yet to return from the Sannidhanam owing to heavy rush. The police released two vehicles every five minutes from Plappally and Nilackal as the line-up in the block for nearly 20 kilometres got longer.
Unauthorised parking of heavy vehicles has also been creating problems for smooth traffic at several places between Laha and Pampa.
Sea of humanity
The situation was still worse at Pampa with the police blocking the pilgrims at four places between Pampa Manalpuram and Chelikkuzhy (Neelimala-bottom) from Sunday night as part of the crowd management. The entire Pampa Manalpuram has turned into a sea of humanity as the pilgrim flow to the Sannidhanam was blocked every four hours.
Sanitation at Pampa was badly affected. For, Sabarimala Sanitation Society workers were unable to collect solid waste accumulated at Pampa Manalpuram what with the swarming crowd. The human waste collection tanks of the latrine complexes there became full by Monday morning.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) authorities were reportedly finding it difficult to handle the situation as the sewage treatment facility at Pampa was grossly inadequate to meet the requirement during the rush days.
Muniyappa from Chennai said it took 15 hours for him and four others to reach the temple premises from Pampa.
A member of the Devaswom staff said pilgrims had to wait for six hours behind the thickly packed barricades to reach the temple sopanam from the Valiyanadappanthal at the Sannidhanam the previous night.
No other option: police
Talking to The Hindu, P. Chandrashekharan, Additional Director-General of Police, who is also the chief police co-ordinator at Sabarimala, said the police had no option other than periodically blocking the pilgrim influx into the holy hillock at a few points at Pampa and on the main trunk road to reduce the pressure at the Sannidhanam.