Sanghom alleges bid to disrupt its activities

Hard trek: A group of pilgrims crossing the Kariyilamthodu stream in the foothills of Karimala on Friday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Radhakrishnan Kutoor

PATHANAMTHITTA: The Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom (ABASS) alleged here on Saturday that certain commercial quarters attached to Eco-Development Committees (EDCs) were trying to disrupt its initiative to open a free food distribution camp at Karimala.

Talking to The Hindu, Sanghom general secretary N. Sreenivasan and vice-president D. Vijayakumar said ABASS had been doing voluntary service by serving free food and drinking water to pilgrims during the Makaravilakku festival for the past several years. Over 8,000 pilgrims partook of food at the ‘annadanam’ hall daily during the previous year.

Mr. Sreenivasan said hectic preparations were on to begin the camp at Karimala on December 30 when the Ayyappa Temple opens for the Makaravilakku festival.

He alleged that traders attached to the EDC had recently drained out the pond at Karimala Thavalom, which was the main water source for the Sanghom camp. The move was aimed at preventing ABASS from opening its camp at Karimala.

Sources said though the EDCs were supposed to strictly follow the guidelines laid down by the Forest Department, traders and their workers at Karimala had violated the directive of the Forest Department not to drain out the pond.

Mr. Sreenivasan said there were allegations of EDCs fleecing pilgrims on the Mukkuzhi-Pampa stretch. The EDCs have opened around 200 shops on the 22-km stretch of the trekking path this year.

Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary Kummanam Rajashekharan has called for deployment of Central forces on the trekking path. He said the Forest department, police and the district administration had failed to prevent fleecing of pilgrims on the trekking path.

Traders attached to the EDCs had gone on a lightning strike a week ago in protest against the closing down of two shops by the Forest Department following a raid. The alleged arm-twisting tactics of the traders yielded results as the Forest Department withdrew its disciplinary action against both the EDC shops, said Mr. Rajashekharan.