They will wear wristbands displaying names, contact numbers

Children visiting Sabarimala this year will be issued wristbands displaying their respective names and home contact numbers to make it easier for law enforcers and volunteers to trace them in the event of them getting separated from their escorting adults during the pilgrimage season beginning November 15.

Additional Director General of Police, South Zone, A.. Hemachandran said an estimated 30 million pilgrims would visit the temple every year during the pilgrim season. A significant number of them are children, including minor girls. This year may be no different.

Many get lost in the crowd, chiefly on days when the number of pilgrim peaks and the forested locality is chock-a-block with devotees from across India, along with hawkers, traders and alms-seekers.

Every season, the police stations at the Sannidhanam and Pampa are inundated with requests from tearful and desperate parents seeking urgent help to trace their missing children. The police commonly use the public address system and their wireless telecommunication network to reunite missing children with their guardians, a time-consuming and stressful process.

From this year, the police will insist that pilgrims bringing children to the temple register their names and that of their wards with the law enforcers at Pampa.

Crime squads

The State police have commandeered crime squads from their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu to work along with their own teams to ‘spot’ criminals, including sex offenders, drug peddlers, pick-pockets, and radical elements.

The police have installed doorframe-fitted metal detectors and baggage scanners at the entrance to the temple as part of its elaborate anti-sabotage security measures. Striking units of its special weapons and tactics team, Thunderbolts Kerala, will be stationed at Pampa and the Sannidhanam.

An array of security cameras and watch towers will cover the entire pilgrimage area.

The State police have requisitioned Rapid Action Force battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to bolster their ranks, an estimated 4,000 men, at Sabarimala when the season peaks during the Makaravilakku festival in January.

Special inter-State police teams to prevent extremist and criminal activities, crowd-control measures to prevent stampedes, strict enforcement of fire-safety norms, computerised traffic management system, and a centralised crime monitoring room are among the key features of the police security arrangements this year. The various forested paths leading to the temple will be well patrolled.

Traders will be issued identity cards. Alms-seeking will be discouraged.

Drinking water tanks, electrical installations, and the temple complex have been brought under a security blanket. Ensuring food safety will be high on the priority of the police. State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian is supervising the security arrangements.

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