Travancore Devaswom Board has declined to allot space for Annadanam (free feeding of pilgrims) to Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom at Sabarimala Sannidhanam during the forthcoming annual pilgrim season, according to the Sanghom general secretary, N.Velayudhan Nair.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr Nair said the TDB authorities have informed the Sanghom leaders at a recent meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram that the space allotted to ABASS for conducting Annadanam at Sabarimala Sannidhanam during the previous pilgrim season would be converted into a resting place for pilgrims. The Board authorities have further stated that they were not in a position to allot space to ABASS for free feeding of pilgrims at Sabarimala during the forthcoming Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season, he added.

The TDB decision has turned out to be a big shock to the ABASS that has been doing praiseworthy service to the pilgrims at Sabarimala as well as various base camps since the past 50 years.

Mr Velayudhan Nair said not less than 20,000 devotees used to have food at its Annadanam hall on a daily basis during the previous pilgrim season and the figure has even touched 35,000 on the peak days of the Mandalam and Makaravilakku festival.

He alleged that the TDB move amply exposed the commercial interests of the temple administrative body at Sabarimala. The board decision would only help the hotel lobby and certain other commercial interests

at Sabarimala, he alleged.

The Sanghom has been doing Annadanam at Sabarimala, Pampa, Erumely, Valiyanavattom, Karimala, Nilackal, Azhutha and Uppupara round-the-clock during the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season for the past several years. The lone healthcare facility at Sabarimala Sanidhanam during the monthly puja period was the one provided by the Sanghom at its office near Malikappuram. This is besides the 24-hour free stretcher service, medicated drinking water supply, etc, by the ABASS volunteers at Sabarimala, he said.

Moreover, specially trained ABASS volunteers have been manning the oxygen parlours at different points on the Pampa-Sannidhanam trekking path during the annual pilgrim season.

Mr Velayudhan Nair has called upon the Kerala High Court as well as the Government to intervene in the matter and facilitate a proper place for unfailingly continuing the Annadanam as in the previous year.

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