Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eighteen point safety request for implementation to avoid major Health Safety and Environment Hazard to pilgrims, nature as well as sanctity of Sabarimala temple

Eighteen point safety request for implementation to avoid major Health Safety and Environment Hazard to pilgrims, nature as well as sanctity of Sabarimala temple

Following are thoughts and plans that came in to the mind of an ardent ayyappa devotee after the wake of the tragic loss of 102 lives at Pullumedu. I am submitting it to the authorities as it is and to all readers who may suggest improvements on these points. There may be different or better solutions than these.

Eighteen point safety request for implementation to avoid major Health Safety and Environment Hazard to pilgrims, nature as well as sanctity of Sabarimala temple.

1. Entrust completely the safety responsibility to Kerala Police Department in co-ordination with various other safety agencies including Rapid Action Force, without external influence. This will ensure there will be a single point responsibility for safety.

2. Modify the current website of Kerala Police at Sannidhanam to allow devotees to register their arrival in advance with option to input relevant details like:

a. Date of arrival

b. Mode of travel – by vehicle or walk using traditional forest route

c. If by walk – route opted

d. number of members in the party

e. coming from which place/state

f. team leaders name

g. number of children and women in the group

h. food options – self cooking or usage of hotel or seva sangams annadhanam facilities

i. vehicle type, if coming by vehicle

j. vehicle registration number

k. expected date of departure

l. route of return journey

This option of registering their arrival to the website could be done from their respective places or through special counters – an entry /check point camp operated by Kerala Police at Nilakkal, Vadasserikkara / Pulpara etc. Once logged on Special onetime stickers with color/number coding could be issued and pasted on the front glass of the vehicle for those coming by road and for those coming by walking a card issued with similar data.


The above exercise, if effectively introduced and implemented should give a good estimate of number of devotees arriving sannidhanam at any given time. Police and all relevant authorities can finalize necessary arrangements accordingly to meet the volume of devotees in various key points like sannidhanam, pampa, nilakkal and pullumedu accordingly.

For those pilgrims arriving without intimation final check point will act as a count-in centre . In addition, the queue could be controlled with bar coded hand bands giving approx time for Darshan, taking care of the route selected, stops ahead and age/health factor of the devotee.

3. Entrust the food/annadhanam activities to religious and voluntary groups like Ayyappa Seva Sangam, Hare Krishna Movement, Mata Amritanandamayi Math etc. Abolish the system of renting out restaurants and stalls on auction to external parties from Nilakkal and surrounding vicinities of Sannidhanam.
Effort should be made to provide simple and satwik food free/nominal cost by these voluntary service organizations to devotees.

Advantage: The above scheme if implanted should ensure distribution of good quality and hygienic food to all devotees and sevaks visiting sabarimala during pilgrimage season. The process will also ensure a compassionate and devotional treatment of the devotees with bhakthi and seva mind rather than commercial outlook as experienced recently in the case of devotees being beaten and poured with hot water etc.

4. Entrust the health and hygiene co-ordination completely to groups like Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Math during the pilgrimage season. Incidentally, AMMA has come out with Amala Bharatham campaign for this year, which will serve definitely for causes like this for the welfare of millions of pilgrims and their hygiene issues.

Since Mata Amritanandamayi has initiated a noble cause of Amala Bharatm this year, it will be a good idea to give the entire hygiene responsibility to Amrtandamayi Math .This will help them to set example for the country.

5. Provide adequate toilet facilities and pure drinking water availability throughout the pilgrimage season in all major destinations and pilgrim concentration areas during the season. In the local temples leading to sabarimala, the onus for this activity should be taken up by the regional temple/local people. On part of the pilgrims coming from other states, they should make a note to not pollute or contaminate or urinate indiscriminately to any open / secret place they get access to. The local people as well as the outstation devotees should make a clear and conscious effort to achieve this objective. This shall be the responsibility of the people who collects the income from Sabarimala.

6. Improve the forest roads from Pampa to Sannidhanam, especially Swami Ayyappan road as promised and planned in the government news reports released in Mid December 2010. Thus necessary renovation measures should be taken urgently to improve the road conditions, if possible expanding it, installing proper fencing arrangements for the convenience of devotees to ascend and descend safely. Necessary and adequate lighting arrangements should be done throughout the route and pilgrim concentration areas.
Proper roads and safety arrangement have to be made for which accountability (no excuses) to be fixed.

7. Introduce one way system for ascending and descending. Going upwards through the main walk way to Sannidhanam and then descending through Swami Ayyappan and link routes, after properly modifying the conditions of these roads. At no point of time, police or other safety/security staff should resort to using ropes to control the flow of devotees. As this method is extremely dangerous if it breaks or loosens crowd controlling activity should be well planned and organized from the base stage itself and movement are to be controlled to reduce the rush at peak points. This may include using of wireless communication system, cubicle systems. These may not be rooms/cubicles/closed type like other major pilgrim centres like Thirupathi but barricade or blocks to restrict easy movements of 200 or 300 pilgrims from one point to another and followed by another group.

8. Implement travel/transport timings for ayyappas and tractors and donkeys carrying heavy goods to and fro to sannidhanam. Mechanised Rope ways for transporting materials shall be also considered.
Advantage: If a specific time schedule is implemented say from 8 am to 9am in the morning then every three or four hours after it till 6:00 pm, for the purpose of movement of goods transportation only through this route, safety of pilgrims and workers operating these vehicles could be ensured along with the safety of innocent animals involved.

9. Introduce appropriate system of safety announcement and notice boards, cautioning devotees to keep order and peace throughout the pilgrimage, chanting all along ayyappa mantra. A connected sound system with repeat of ayyappa mantras along with important announcements could be initiated all along the final stretches towards sannidhanam. Every where,batch system of going up and down should be implemented
Advantage: This will instil more discipline and safety reminders amongst the devotees and act as a warning note in case they rush down fast threatening the life of other devotees, especially elderly and children.

10. Effort should be made to provide continuously good quality hot and medicated water on way to Sannidhanam.

11. No special preferences are to be allowed for celebrities, ministers, VIPs etc by way of Police protection and accompaniment from Pampa to Sannidhanam. The time/service values of those high ranked officers are precious and are to be used effectively for the conduct of smooth pilgrimage facilities to all devotees. As per Sabarimala and its religious rituals and principles all are equal as the lord himself. If an ever, someone highly ranked and feels himself above this factor, he could take the service of a specialized unit of sevak (volunteers) formed by Ayyappa Seva Sangam and should be charged heavily for taking up this service. Caution should be made to ensure that very limited people use this facility in order to bring in orderliness throughout. In addition, on peak days, ie on Makara Vilakku and Painkuni Uthram, Arattu etc days necessary announcement to restrict or reduce the arrival of ladies and children to the temple. This move will help to reduce crowd handling problems that may arise due to the presence of ladies and children.
Strict efforts should be made to see that only authorities responsible for the smooth functioning of the entire system should have special treatment for professional reasons.

12. There are several new procedures and rituals come up in the recent times, some of which are extremely dangerous. One of them witnessed during this makaravilakku festival is the ceremonious arathi conducted to the family members of panthalam/Trivandrum raja when they were accompanying the Thanka Anki and walking ahead of it. Those two sevak/volunteers were doing the arathi in a huge vessel with two levers stretched to each side and in it bhasmam and camphor lit in full glory and fume. The vessel was huge and heavy and the fire was in full fury and glow. What would have been the case, if by chance the hand of one of them slipped? The royal member and those around in the front of this fire ball engulfing themselves in ball of fires? Is it required to do arathi in such an elaborate way. If it is/was a tradition that has to be done, let it be done by using a small arathi and in a gentle way and not in such fury and hurry and heaviness creating dangerous condition to all around. Efforts should be made to stop this method and necessary caution and warning to be made all around the pilgrim destinations to use lighter and simpler methods to do arathi.

13. These days many devotees, especially from outside Kerala, returning after darshan have started following a system of throwing or letting to flow their black vasthras in the pampa river. This is addition to the level of pollution already existing within the holy river of pampa. If ever they wish to discard their vrutha vasthra’s and end their 41 days vrutham then and there in pampa, necessary authorities should come up with a facility of a fire place where they could deposit all such things. This will destroy those materials then and there leaving only ashes at the end of the festival period.

14. All possible sources of volunteering should be taken into consideration for the preliminary routes and stages of sabarimala darshan. That is till Pampa from one side and a few kilometers away from Sannidhanam if the traditional Pullumedu route or other routes are considered. After this, Police and related Rapid Action Force/Security agencies should take up the responsibility for crowd control and welfare. Transportation and Traffic arrangements should however remain within the control of Police authorities and completely computerized. The finalised list should be confirmed and authenticated by police sand they should give the go ahead for these volunteers to operate.

15. Introduce effective measures by way of notices and announcements educating the devotees not to throw offerings (notes and coins) when they reach the sanctum sanctorum. The offerings should be dropped appropriately into the hundi. It could be further streamlined by removing the hundi, currently in place in front of the sanctum sanctorum and moving it to a specific area in front of the temple, may be the vacant spot near Kodimaram. Handling of offerings to the temple and subsequent sorting are to be conducted in a well coordinated and electronically displayed manner to avoid theft or mishandling if any.

16. Sabarimala temple has already a huge reserve of fund from the offerings accumulated over a period of several years. However, the revenue is distributed to various sources and means of government bodies and other temples within the control of Travancore Devaswom Board. All efforts should be made to move out government bodies from handling the collection and offerings received and whatever received should be diverted only for the welfare of the pilgrims and associated activities of temples under the control of Travancore Devaswom board. All governmental expenses, water, electricity, police, protection, etc should be charged then and there so that surplus could be well utilized without the mishandling of the government/political bodies in place at any time.

17. Special arrangements are to be made for the safe deposit of offerings (rice, and other Pooja items) and collection of prasadams. Current counters and ways of handling the packaged prasadams are completely inadequate and unhygienic and prasadams sold do not remain even a few days. Special caution to be made in preparation and packaging of these Pooja prasadams. Here again, the production of the Pooja prasadams like appam, aravana, payassam etc could be handed over to devoted religious institutions, say again, Ayyappa Seva Sangam, or other groups like Sai organizations, Amma groups, Hare Krishna groups or any hindu religious bodies who handles or have resource to handle this task in bulk. The auctioning process of giving this task to external parties with commercial interest should be stopped once and for all. This will make sure that excessive commercialisation will not affect the quality of prasadams.

18. Finally, Sabarimala is the one of the main temple in Kerala which allows all devotees irrespective of religion allow darshan. Any assistance to better the facilities and smooth flow of pilgrims in a safe and hygienic way offered from any other religious bodies should be welcomed and accepted. In addition, the temple should remain open for one more week in all the months as per Malayalam calendar to facilitate smooth and convenient darshan by devotees.

The above are thoughts and plans that came in to the mind of an ardent ayyappa devotee after the wake of the tragic loss of 102 lives at Pullumedu. I am submitting it to the authorities as it is and to all readers who may suggest improvements on these points. There may be different or better solutions than these.

In addition a separate list of Health specific items will be submitted in due course.

End of the day, all efforts are to be made to see to it that a new pilgrim season starts with all available Health, Safety and Environment protection plans in place than on paper. Already we know that those politicians and bureaucrats have already moved out to their new areas of interest. End of the day, it is the onus of the devotees and Travancore Devaswom Board to see to it that a safe and smooth pilgrimage to Sabarimala sannidhanam could be conducted in future. Sabarimala is becoming an abode of politicians who make many promises every year during and after the pilgrim season is over and after which we do not see any action happening for the benefit of devotees. This should change once and for all.

Ramesh Menon

Please also visit and read:

Kindly post your your valuable input to these thoughts as comments below. It will assist me to compile it as a final document for submission to the authorities.

1 comment:

  1. A reply from the government of Kerala for this request.

    cm-grccell to me


    Your petition has been forwarded to the ACS, Revenue (Devaswom) Dept. for immediate necessary action and report.

    Petition No.2070/CMPGRC/SK/2011/GAD; dt: 27.01.2011 and report awaiting.

    Additional Secretary to CMPGRC