Devaswom Board to take up 19 projects
PATHANAMTHITTA: The Travancore Devaswom Board will introduce pre-paid ‘dolly’ services between Pampa and Sannidhanam.
A palanquin-type carriage in which the elderly and the physically-challenged devotees are carried by four men on their shoulders between Pampa and Sabarimala is called a ‘dolly’ in these parts.
The Board has sought a report from Sabarimala Executive Officer A.C. Godavarma on introducing the service.
Devaswom Commissioner C.G. Satchidanandan told The Hindu here on Tuesday that the move was intended to check fleecing of devotees by private ‘dolly’ operators, especially during the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage.
He said the Board would fix the fare and bring out guidelines for operating the ‘dollies’ on the basis of the report.
Though official records at the Devaswom administrative office at Pampa say that 300 ‘dollies’ operate at Sabarimala, an unofficial estimate has put the number at no fewer than 1,000 during the pilgrimage.
Each ‘dolly’ operator is supposed to register his name at the Devaswom Maramath (works) Office at Pampa, which, in turn, issues them a badge. Though the Board has fixed the fee for a round trip at Rs.975, including its toll amount of Rs. 75, devotees have been complaining that the operators claim exorbitant charges ranging from Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000.
A majority of the ‘dolly’ operators are from the the Kambom-Theni areas of Tamil Nadu and from the Neyyattinkara-Kaliyikkavila areas of Thiruvananthapuram district.
Board president C.K. Gupthan said the Board had invited tenders for 19 projects aimed at improving the basic facilities for pilgrims and abating the pollution of the Pampa in a time-bound manner. He said these projects, estimated at Rs. 7.1 crore, included building of 300-unit latrine blocks at Sannidhanam, three blocks of urinals between Pampa and Marakkoottom on the trekking path and three blocks of urinals on Swami Ayyappan Road.
Mr. Gupthan said resting places would be set up at five places on the Pampa-Marakoottom stretch. Three accommodation blocks would be constructed at Nilackal for the police and other officials deputed here during the pilgrimage, besides a water tank of 20-lakh- litre capacity. The Board had taken steps to set up 2,000 steel bunk beds at the police barracks at an estimated cost of Rs. 70 lakh before the next pilgrim season.
He said a 320-kVA diesel generator set would be installed at the sewage treatment plant at Cheriyanav attom. Mr. Gupthan said steps had been taken to set up a sewage treatment plant of 3.5-mld (million litres a day) capacity at Sannidhanam and an additional plant with 1.5-mld capacity at Pampa as part of the pollution-abatement scheme for the Pampa.
New Aravana plant
Mr. Gupthan said the Board would construct an Aravana preparation and packing plant at Sannidhanam. He said foolproof steps would be initiated to ensure uninterrupted supply of Aravana during the next pilgrim season.