'Unlicensed entry of vehicles a cause for tragedy'

Flooding of large number of mini-vehicles like jeeps and autorikshaws without permission or control through the tekking route, part of the Periyar Tiger Reserves, also proved fatal, according to forest department sources.

Though Pullumedu route has been used by pilgrims from Tamil Nadu for long, that area had never been sufficiently covered by security and crowd management plans of Sabarimala pilgrimage.

On days of heavy rush, the entire focus of forces including police and NDRF tended to be shifted to Sannidhanam-Pampa route, through which over 90 per cent of the pilgrims pass and down.

Accoring to sources, the  forest authorities had brought these lapses to the notice of the higher ups during the review meetings attended by senior police and government officials and even ministers.

It has frequently been brought to the notice of police the vehicles should not be allowed to enter the area which is Reserve Forest Region.

Allowing vehicles to this part was illegal not alone during the pilgrim season even during any time of the year as it posed a threat to fragile eco system of the area, sources said.
"We have even suggested bringing regulation even for trekking by pilgrims along the seven-km path unless and until basi facilties are provide in the area", a forest official said.

Yesterday when the incident occurred, only a few members of Forest Protection Councils and about 30 police personnel from the local police station were present to manage the unexpectedly high iflow of pilgrims, sources said.

A forest official, who did not want to identified, said they had asked police to strictly regulate vehicles from going to Pullmedu beyond Kumali town check post.

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