Kerala opposition walks out over poor facilities at Sabarimala

November 25th, 2008 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 25 (IANS) The Kerala opposition Tuesday walked out of the assembly citing poor pilgrimage facilities provided to the thousands of devotees thronging the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district. Seeking leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue, senior Congress legislator Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the main reason for the poor facilities during the annual pilgrimage was the lack of coordination between the Travancore Devasom Board, which looks after the temple, and Devasom Minister G.Sudhakaran.

“The roads that lead to the temple are in a bad condition and the electricity charges (Rs 15.50 per unit) being levied at the pilgrim centre is the highest in the country. The quality of the temple prasadam (offering) is inferior. The government is yet to take steps to convert Sabarimala into a national pilgrimage centre,” Radhakrishnan said.

Although the temple dedicated to Hindu god Ayyappa receives devotees throughout the year, the pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Hindu month of Vrischikam (Nov 16) and ends on the first day of the month of Makaram - in the third week of January.

Sudhakaran, however, brushed aside the allegations and said that a whopping Rs.220 million had for the first time been set aside for development activities at the pilgrim centre.

“We have spend nearly 90 percent of the amount for improving facilities. The major work to be taken up is a queue complex, a ropeway for carrying things to the temple top and a state-of-the-art sewage plant. We will finish this before we demit office in another 40 months,” the Devasom minister.

The temple, on top of a hill at an altitude of 914 metres, is four kilometres from Pamba town in Pathanamthitta district in central Kerala and is accessible only by foot.

Sudhakaran added that 10,000 tube lights have been put up in and around the temple complex.

“As many as 3,000 police officers, 1,500 health professionals and 1,000 buses making 150,000 trips to the base camp at Pamba would be operated during the peak season. Rs.8 million has been allocated for just cleanliness work,” he said.

But leader of opposition Oommen Chandy said the government had not made use of the 110 hectares of land given to the temple for developmental activities.

“When we were in office (2005) we got the prime minister to sanction 12.65 hectares of forest land in the temple complex. Then another 110 hectares of land was also handed over for developmental activities. You have been in office for the past 30 months and you have not done anything on that land. What you have failed to do in 30 months, you say you will do in the next 30 months,” Chandy said.

He then led the entire opposition out after leave was denied to discuss this issue.

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