The stampede at Pulmedu near Vandiperiyar in Kerala's Idukki district on the night of January 14, the climactic day of the Sabarimala pilgrimage season that has claimed over 100 lives besides leaving many injured, is unfortunate. It is incumbent upon the authorities to ensure that every pilgrim has a safe and comfortable darshan.
The Pulmedu track to reach the Sannidhanam is normally avoided and not used by regular pilgrims, being a track situated in the Periyar Tiger Reserve area. The temple board must issue a travel advisory as also dos and don'ts as full page media advertisements on the specific routes to be followed while on the pilgrimage. The Kerala government appears to have been caught on the wrong foot.
A. Saratchandran Menon, Chittur
That the tragedy has been declared a national calamity/disaster shows its magnitude. While the exact cause is awaited, it appears that crowd management was inadequate. The Kerala government should have made elaborate arrangements to ensure the safety and security of pilgrims. It should now act and ensure that this is the last time such a tragedy occurs.
A. Jainulabdeen, Chennai
Restricting the numbers of pilgrims would be next to impossible and the time has come to think out of the box. The authorities could look at building cubicles like in Tirumala and also ensure that an orderly queue system is in place. They should also think in terms of using space technology to track people and also running their own vehicles in all areas in and around the temple.
G. Padmanabhan, Bangalore
With millions thronging the temple, questions arise on the poor facilities afforded to pilgrims en route. The absence of proper roads and a world-class communication system without an emergency rescue plan in place, is certainly an open invitation for disaster to strike.
Inadequate police deployment at the temple to oversee the surge of devotees has only stretched crowd management. A few policemen, doctors and about 30 forest officials supervising the flow of three lakh visitors a day is inadequate, to say the least.
Moreover, these days, more than a sense of devotion, it is a practical feeling of ‘having been there' that drives many to undertake such ‘religious expeditions.' In the bargain, even shortcuts are evolved to enjoy ‘divine-intervention' during the main day of celebrations. How else does one describe the scramble to depart the temple precincts immediately after the sighting of the ‘celestial light'? Both the authorities and pilgrims need to introspect.
Pachu Menon, Margao
Though the accident happened at a place that did not appear to have received focussed crowd control strategy, it is not fair to apportion the entire blame on the government. Sabarimala has several unique geographical features that make it a logistical nightmare even for accomplished crowd management experts. Its location in the middle of dense forests restricts infrastructure development.
The most important reason for the huge rush of devotees is the fact that the pilgrimage season is restricted to less than two months. The annual increase of pilgrim inflow nullifies whatever modest amenities that are in place before the commencement of the season. An extension of the season by about a month could help matters. But the religious fervour to witness the ‘celestial light' is something the government cannot easily regulate.
V.N. Mukundarajan, Thiruvananthapuram
To prevent a man-made tragedy such as this, here are a few suggestions. Two or three helipads must be constructed in the area with night landing facility. All devotees must wear radio tags. The government can utilise the services of retired defence personnel to maintain air services during this period.
C.K. Mathew, Kottayam
Keywords: Sabarimala stampede