P. Chandrasekharan, Sabarimala Chief Police Coordinator and Additional Director General of Police (Administration), said here on Friday that the State police were of the view that progressive use of the virtual queue was the only way to avoid crowding of pilgrims and to facilitate smooth darshan at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala during the annual pilgrim season.
Addressing a press conference, Mr. P. Chandrasekharan said the waiting period in the queue that often extended to several hours could be reduced to one hour if more pilgrims opted for the virtual queue system.
“Every hour, nearly 3,000 pilgrims who had opted for the virtual queue got darshan. It would take five to 10 years for a progressive shift from the conventional queue,” he added.
Stating that the response to the queue system was overwhelming, Mr. Chandrasekharan said www.sabarimalaq.com had recorded 5.84 lakh hits on Thursday and the total number of hits had crossed 4.3 crore this season.
Till yesterday, 6,43,245 pilgrims had booked for the virtual queue.
The ADGP said the police anticipated 20 lakh bookings for virtual queue this pilgrimage season. As many as 7.43 lakh pilgrims had made use of the facility last season and the total number of hits were 4.3 crore.
The number of absentees among those who had registered their names for the virtual queue was a worrying aspect.
“As many as 25 per cent who register do not turn up and the way out was to levy a charge for the service that was now being offered free”, he said.
From abroad too
Of those who had used the service, 12.7 per cent were from Kerala, 9.16 per cent from Karnataka, 16.36 per cent from Tamil Nadu, 7.44 per cent from Andhra Pradesh and 54.25 per cent from the rest of India. There were also bookings from Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and France.
The virtual queue, developed by the Police Computer Centre last year, was modified with the support of Keltron. SMS facility was being provided with the support of the Kerala State IT Mission to give confirmation of the bookings and to issue reminders.
The virtual queue was available to the pilgrims in 15 time slots of one hour each from 4 a.m. to 12 noon and from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
ID cards a must
Steps had been taken to check impersonation by making identity cards mandatory, introducing bar codes on online receipts and restricting group bookings to 60.
Those below 15 years had been exempted from producing ID cards if they were accompanied by their parents.
The ADGP said the pilgrims who had registered their names should reach Pampa only at the time given in the online receipt and report to any of the 10 counters working round the clock for verification.
Two counters had been set up for those coming via Pulmedu.
After the verification, the pilgrims would have to reach the Valiya Nadappanthal at the time allotted to them. They will be allowed to enter the general queue through the two barricades for holy darshan at the Lower Tirumuttom, bypassing the queue along the trekking path-Valiya Nadappanthal stretch.
To a query, Mr. Chandrasekharan said the majority of pilgrims preferred to reach the Sannidhanam through the Chandranandan road.
A 24-hour helpline had been set up at the police headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram to assist the pilgrims. The helpline numbers are 0471-3243000, 3244000, 3245000.