The State and Central governments have given the nod for pilgrims and fishermen to visit Kachchatheevu for the Anthoniyar church festival on February 27 and 28.

Directions have been issued to Ramanathapuram Collector T.N. Hariharan, the Coast Guard Station at Mandapam, State police, Customs and other security agencies for providing security.

The permission to visit Kachchatheevu has been given to pilgrims after a gap of 27 years. The last time the permission was given was in 1982.

Commandant D.S. Saini, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Station, Mandapam, told The Hindu on Thursday that he had received intimation to provide security to pilgrims visiting Kachchatheevu on Saturday and Sunday.

A plan of action was being worked out to escort and bring them back.

The details of those intending to visit Kachchatheevu were being collected. Mr. Hariharan said the State government had asked him to inform the security agencies, including police, Coast Guard and others to take steps to provide necessary security to them.

Mr. Saini added that a Coast Guard ship, hovercraft and other boats would be part of the security plan. Dornier aircraft would be used for aerial monitoring. Marine commandos would also be pressed into service.

Besides escorting the pilgrims, the boats would patrol off the Rameswaram coast. The boats carrying pilgrims would be escorted up to the International Maritime Boundary Line and handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy, which would take them to Kachchatheevu.

He said the pilgrims should carry ration card, voter identity card and driving licence. They would be asked to carry lifesaving equipment to face any eventuality. The pilgrims would be taken from the Naval Detachment jetty at Rameswaram.

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