Work at Nilackal to resume today
The 15-day agitation by plantation workers in protest against the felling of rubber trees at the Nilackal base camp was called off on Friday following the intervention of Labour Commissioner T.T. Antony. Assistant Labour Commissioner Tony Vincent held talks with the trade union leaders and Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) officials at the Labour Commissionerate in Thiruvananthpauram on Friday.
The plantation workers had blocked felling of rubber trees at Nilackal from August 23, demanding job protection. The High Power Committee for Implementation of the Sabarimala Master Plan chaired by Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar had awarded contracts for key development works at Nilackal a few weeks ago so as to complete these before the pilgrim season began in mid-November.
Talking to The Hindu , Sabarimala executive officer K. Sankaranarayana Pillai said the setting up of a vehicle parking yard at an estimated cost of Rs.5 crore and another Rs.5-crore project to widen the existing roads at the Nilackal base camp necessitated the felling of nearly 4,000 rubber trees.
Construction of a check-dam across the natural stream at the Nilackal hill, construction of an accommodation complex for drivers and a tank with capacity to store 20 lakh litres of water were the other major projects awarded for completion before October 31, said TDB chief engineer K. Ravikumar.
Swami Ayyappan Road
Mr. Ravikumar said the TDB had also launched development work on the Pampa-Marakkoottom Swami Ayyappan Road at an estimated cost of Rs 5.5 crore.
However, incessant rain in the forests had held up work at Sabarimala and Nilackal.
Work on the Swami Ayyappan Road has to be completed in time this year as the TDB, traders, and various other government and non-government agencies will have to depend solely on tractors to transport goods between Pampa and the Sannidhanam from this year.
Mr. Jayakumar, who is also the TDB Chief Commissioner, had made it clear that the practice of employing pack-donkeys to transport goods would not be permitted at Sabarimala from this year.