KERALA

Fire at Cherthala temple: Minister orders inquiry

ALAPPUZHA, DEC. 6. The Minister for Devaswoms, K.C. Venugopal, has ordered an inquiry into the fire that broke out at the ancient Karthyayani Devi Temple in Cherthala under the Travancore Devaswom Board early this morning.

Two watchers who were on duty at the temple yesterday night have been suspended after preliminary inquiries for their failure to discharge duties properly.

The Thidappally-structure adjoining the sanctum sanctorum and the Nadappandal have been damaged in the fire that raged in the temple at around 1 a.m. today. The Cherthala police and the fire force had to work for more than an hour to douse the fire. A few local people suffered minor injuries during the fire-fighting operations. The actual cause of the fire has not been ascertained. The Minister announced the probe after visiting the temple today. The Travancore Devaswom Board president, G. Raman Nair, also visited the temple.

Mr. Venugopal said the Electrical Directorate had been asked to hold an inquiry. He said the Vigilance SP of the Travancore Devaswom Board would be asked to inquire into the allegations raised by the devotees against devaswom officials.

Officials blamed

A large number of devotees who assembled at the temple raised vehement criticisms against the devaswom officials accusing that they had turned the temple into a den for illegal activities. The devotees pointed out that the temple fire was brought to the notice of the night watchers by certain youth who were returning after Ashtami celebrations at Vaikom and the watchers failed to detect it.

They said the youth broke the lock of the main gate and entered the temple and alerted the temple officials. They also informed the police and the fire brigade.

The devotees said that though six officials were supposed to be at the temple at the night all of them were not there. Even those who were on duty had failed to discharge their duties. The devotees also alleged that some of the officials were allowing the entry of anti-socials into the temple compound and many illegal activities were taking place there.

Mr. Venugopal said the TDB would draft a plan for the renovation of the temple at the meeting of the board scheduled to be held on December 8 and 9.

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