N.J. Nair

Vishu festival begins at Sabarimala on April 8

Board has only two lakh containers now

No move yet to float global tenders

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The alleged laxity of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in initiating timely action is feared to disrupt the supply of Aravana during the Vishu festival at Sabarimala.

Talking to the The Hindu on Wednesday, TDB sources say in the event of a heavy rush of pilgrims, the board will not be able to meet the demand. The Devaswom authorities have not geared up so far to ensure uninterrupted supply during the fortnight-long festival beginning on April 8.

Aravana was one of the main items on the agenda of the board meeting scheduled on February 25, but the meeting had dispersed following the difference of opinion between president C.K. Guptan and members P. Narayanan and P.K. Sumathykutty Amma.

Considering the shortage of Aravana during the Mandalam and Makaravilakku season, the board has decided to make all arrangements in advance for the Vishu festival. In spite of the High Court directive to clear all pending files before March 5, the board has not taken up 684 important files, including that of Aravana, sources say.

While the projected demand during the season is 14 lakh containers, the board is understood to have a stock of only two lakh eco-friendly containers and four lakh lids, which will get exhausted within two days. The only solace is the stock of plastic containers which can be filled manually.

The board has not taken up a proposal to float global tenders. It also did not respond to the offer from Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) to pack the Prasadam free-of-cost. The possibility of getting sponsors too has not been explored. As TDB does not have an import licence, importing lids from Taiwan in time is a difficult proposition. Replenishing the stock of containers manufactured in Chennai and Coimbatore also is an equally tough task.

Following the timely intervention of the Finance Ministry, the lorries carrying the containers for packing Aravana were cleared at the checkposts without any hitches during the last festival season. The government intervention will become imperative for the smooth passage of the loads again. The proposals to decentralise the production and set up modern equipment is gathering dust. If the government fails to resolve the administrative crisis, the conduct of the festival will be affected, sources say.