Special Correspondent

Record turnout expected; police deployed in strength

Thiruvananthapuram: The capital city wore a festive look on Friday evening as tens of thousands of devotees from the suburban panchayats, neighbouring districts and outside the State started streaming in for the Attukal Pongala on Saturday.

The temple witnessed a heavy turnout of devotees on Friday. All the roads leading to the temple were packed with devotees. Foreign nationals also turned up to pay obeisance to the deity at the temple.

By dusk, thousands of devotees started putting up temporary hearths by the side of all the major roads in the festival zone. Police have been deployed in strength for crowd control and to prevent crimes.

The number of women police constables has been increased. Nearly 5,000 volunteers are also on duty to assist the police.

A closed-circuit TV facility was opened on the temple premises. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan visited the temple to review the security arrangements.

The authorities are expecting a record turnout for the Pongala this year.

The City Corporation has deployed its sanitation workforce in the festival zone to clean up the roads and public places in the wake of the ritual offering.

As many as 1,600 temporary workers have been posted for the cleaning activities.

Health Inspectors, Junior Health Inspectors and 300 permanent workers from all the 86 wards are in charge of sanitation.

The corporation has issued directions to traders to avoid using plastic carrybags and cups in the festival zone and to use paper cups instead.

It has installed 18 tanks at various places to provide drinking water to the devotees. As many as four tanker lorries have also been pressed into service.

In addition, the Revenue department has installed 20 tanks. The Kerala Water Authority and the Fire and Rescue Services have also deployed their water tankers.

The corporation has arranged 15 lorries to clean the road from the Manacaud Sastha temple to the Attukal temple after the Pongala, before the `Arat' procession takes place on Saturday night. The local body issued a plea urging the devotees to ensure that the bricks used for preparing hearths were removed to the roadsides after the Pongala offering.

This was to ensure that the bricks were not crumbled by passing vehicles.

All the roads in the festival zone would be cleaned and washed before dawn on Sunday, Corporation's Health standing committee chairman G.R. Anil said.

Corporation secretary T.K. Ravindran and Health Officer D. Sreekumar visited the temple premises to supervise the operations and make arrangements for sanitation.

KWA arrangements

The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) has diverted the supply of drinking water from other parts of the city to shore up the level at the reservoirs servicing the low-lying areas, including the areas around the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple.

Over the past week, personnel of the KWA adjusted control valves located at different points along the city's distribution network to hike the water level at the three reservoirs feeding the low-lying zone to four metres.

"So much water is being consumed today that the level has dropped to 3.5 metres. The consumption level is at least twice that of last year. In 2006, if we installed 135 special street taps for the Pongala, this year we have put in place 230 such taps. In addition to this, we are plying tankers wherever required," executive engineer, PH division, G. Sudev said on Friday.

Engineers of the KWA are standing by to take emergency measures if the water level in the inter-linked reservoirs at Vellayambalam falls suddenly.

The KWA has also opened a control room near the temple premises.