Sabarimala pilgrim season: HC asks govt. to reconsider proposals

As the authorities seek to regulate the forthcoming Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season in Sabarimala in view of COVID-19, the Kerala High Court has asked the government to reconsider some of its proposals with “wiseful suggestions” from the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).

In a recent order, the Division Bench comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice K. Haripal noted that none representing the TDB was included in the Chief Secretary-led committee constituted by the State government to decide on crowd management during the upcoming Sabarimala pilgrimage season. It further gave the Board the liberty to submit appropriate proposals with all required details to enable the committee to revisit its decision on capping the number of pilgrims on week days and weekends.

On annadanam

The court also raised concern over a decision by the State government to serve annadanam (free meals) in “limited quantities” and asked the TDB to take appropriate steps to ensure its supply to the pilgrims. “The pilgrims from faraway places, after tiresome trekking, should be given free food to satisfy the appetite. The concept of giving annadanam in limited quantity is alien to the concept of annadanam, especially in Sabarimala,” the order said.

On viri at Nilakkal

Similarly, the court found the decision not to permit devotees set up viri (temporary shed) at Nilakkal, the base camp of Sabarimala, unacceptable. If the facility presently available at the location is not sufficient enough to accommodate the pilgrims to stay for some hour before proceeding to or after returning from the hill shrine, arrangements should be made.

“This is essential because if pilgrims from faraway places reach Nilakkal during night, they may not be able to proceed to Sannidhanam straight away. So also there is no justification for virtually requiring the devotees who return from Sannidhanam after 9.30 p.m. and reach Nilakkal to leave Nilakkal during the late hours,” read the order.

Light vehicles permitted

As against the decision to prohibit private vehicles beyond Nilakkal, the court also permitted light vehicles with a seating capacity of 15 to ply beyond the point for dropping and picking up devotees from Pampa. According to the court, the decision, to certain extent, will act as an effective measure for containment of the pandemic.

Noting that the movement of TDB officials and employees of various departments through the virtual queue might create undue difficulties, the court called for further discussion on the matter to take an appropriate decision in adherence to the safety protocols.

Earlier, Sabarimala Special Commissioner and District Judge M. Manoj had submitted a report before the court detailing the challenges involved in conducting the pilgrimage in view of COVID-19.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 8:42:41 AM |

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