If the state government is engrossed in 'Nava Kerala', who will address the turmoil in Sabarimala? High Court takes action after fatalities
If the state government is engrossed in 'Nava Kerala', who will address the turmoil in Sabarimala? High Court takes action after fatalities

The Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, attracts around one lakh devotees daily. This year, there has been a significant increase in the number of pilgrims compared to the previous year, leading to various challenges. Pilgrims endure long waits, with reports of broken barricades and chaos. Tragically, a 12-year-old girl died during the pilgrimage, and another devotee lost her life during the uphill climb.

The situation suggests a lack of concern from the Kerala government. Pilgrims face difficulties in the jungle for weeks, waiting for buses for hours. Basic amenities like tents or shelters are reportedly unavailable. The state of affairs raises questions about the government's preparedness and the scarcity of police personnel adds to the challenges.

The Left-led Kerala government, under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is seemingly indifferent to the issues faced by devotees. The Chief Minister's statewide outreach program, named "Nava Kerala Yatra," coincides with the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage. The heavy deployment of police forces for Vijayan's rallies contrasts with the reported shortage of security personnel at Sabarimala. The Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, which began on November 17, sees a daily influx of approximately 1.2 lakh pilgrims.

Several incidents, including the death of a 12-year-old named Padmashree and another woman, highlight the challenges and mismanagement. Videos depicting the struggles of devotees, particularly at Nilakkal bus station, have gone viral on social media. Shortages of buses force people to wait for hours, exacerbating the difficulties faced by pilgrims.

In response to the incidents, the Kerala High Court has taken suo-motu cognizance of the pilgrims' plight. The court has directed an increase in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and formed a committee to oversee arrangements. Despite the government's assurance of control, the court's intervention indicates ongoing concerns.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran acknowledged the surge in the number of devotees and the need for crowd management. The pilgrimage involves a challenging climb to Pathinettam Padi, particularly for elderly, differently-abled, women, and children. To address this, the temple opening time has been extended, allowing pilgrims an 18-hour window for darshan. The move aims to ensure a smoother experience for all devotees, irrespective of age or physical ability.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan dismissed opposition allegations of mismanagement by the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board. He asserted that the situation is under control, and the substantial deployment of 16,118 police personnel at Sabarimala demonstrates their commitment to handling the crowd.

Sabarimala Temple, nestled among 18 hills in Kerala, is an 800-year-old Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. It stands as one of India's most renowned temples, attracting pilgrims from across the country. Pilgrims must adhere to specific rules, including 41 days of a simple life, observing celibacy, and online or offline registration for darshan.

In response to the challenges faced by pilgrims, the Kerala High Court's intervention and the government's efforts indicate ongoing attempts to address the issues. The tragic incidents underscore the importance of effective crowd management and improved facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of Sabarimala pilgrims.

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