Kerala

Ban on Sabarimala pilgrims’ Pampa bath suggested

Traditional practice: Sabarimala pilgrims taking a bath in the Pampa before undertaking their trek to the temple. File photo  

Pilgrims usually take a dip in the Pampa before trekking up the Sabarimala hills during the annual pilgrimage to the temple.

However, this year, the tradition is likely to be cancelled because of the deepening COVID-19 fears. A ban on bathing of pilgrims at the Pampa and the Valiyathodu at Erumeli is among the key measures proposed by M. Manoj, Sabarimala Special Commissioner and District Judge, to ensure a safe season.

In a report submitted to the High Court regarding the safety protocol for Sabarimala, the commissioner has also suggested restricting pilgrim entry via virtual queue, producing COVID-19 certificate to apply for queue slot, and screening of pilgrims at Nilakkal.

It further calls for distribution of ‘prasadam’ by following COVID-19 guidelines, besides dispensing with the ‘kettunira’ facility at Pampa for the season. Further, all staff, including those involved with Annadanam, and hotel employees should be asked to produce COVID-19-negative certificate 36 hours prior to joining duty.

It also seeks a directive to the Travancore Devaswom Board to set up adequate number of ghee exchange centres at Sannidhanam for collecting ghee coconuts and distributing the offering. Private vehicles should be permitted only up to Nilakkal to avoid crowding at Pampa.

Checkpoints

“Checkpoints should preferably be set up near every parking lot and the bus stand at Nilakkal so that pilgrims can finish health check-up and document formalities at one place. These points should have health care personnel to check for fever, KSRTC bus conductor for issuing bus ticket, and police personnel for verifying virtual queue registration,” it said.

The commissioner also calls for establishing antigen testing facilities at Nilakkal, Pampa and Sannidhanam, besides early completion of works at hospitals at Neelimala, Appachimedu and Sannidhanam. It then raises doubts about allowing pilgrims through the traditional pathways from Erumeli and Pullumedu as it involved overnight staying in crude facilities near forests.

Safety protocol

The commissioner has also requested the court to direct the Directorate of Health Service to formulate a COVID-19 safety protocol in coordination with the police, TDB and other stakeholders and pass on the details to the other southern States. Besides, the police must be asked to effectively utilise the queue complex along the Saramkuthi route to contain the pilgrims.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 5:27:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ban-on-sabarimala-pilgrims-pampa-bath-suggested/article32717866.ece

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