Says he is ready to face any investigation into ‘aravana’ shortage
SABARIMALA: Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president C.K. Gupthan has called for a free and fair probe into the allegations of corruption in the award of the contract for ‘aravana’ payasam and the circumstances leading to its shortage at Sabarimala on the first day of the annual pilgrim season.
Talking to reporters here on Sunday, Mr. Guptan said he was ready to face any kind of inquiry. He said his priority was to streamline the functioning of the board.
Asked about the allegations of ‘high-level corruption in awarding the ‘aravana’ contract to the fourth lowest bidder, violating the norms and procedures,’ Mr. Gupthan said he was for transparency in such deals, leaving little room for corruption charges.
He said the contractor had blatantly violated the agreement signed with the board and even misinformed the board on the stock of ‘aravana’ containers, flip lids and so on. Mr. Gupthan said criminal and civil proceedings would be initiated against the contractor. But for the effective and timely intervention of the Kerala High Court, the board could not have resolved the crisis, he said.
In its order on November 15, a Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice T.R. Ramachandran Nair, has ‘permitted the TDB to directly prepare, pack and supply Aravana Prasadom at Sabarimala, in case the contractor fails to carry out the work, so that the interests of the devotees would not be affected.’
The TDB has installed two more seamer machines at the ‘aravana’ packing unit to augment its capacity.
Mr. Gupthan said steps had already been taken to procure as many ‘aravana’ containers and flip lids as possible from different parts of the country as well as abroad to resolve the crisis.
He said the stock of ‘aravana’ had crossed 70,000 containers by Sunday afternoon and the board would receive a consignment of 2.5 lakh flip lids from Taiwan on Wednesday.
The rush of devotees at the Lord Ayyapa Temple continued for the third day on Sunday. The shortage of ‘aravana’ resulted in regulation of its supply to five cans per person.
ANI adds: A woman was arrested in front of the Sabarimala temple on Sunday while attempting to enter the temple, where entry of women is barred. Shelvi of Puducherry was arrested just 50 m away from the holy 18 steps and was taken into custody for further investigation.