AP stir halts pilgrims at Tirupati

Protesters stop all vehicles at foothills from 6 am to 6 pm
Last Updated 24 September 2013, 20:00 IST

 Pilgrims to the holy shrine of Tirumala were stranded in Tirupati town as agitators for united Andhra blocked all the roads leading to the hills.

Protesters stopped private buses, taxis and even two wheelers from entering the ghat road from Alipiri junction at the foothills from 6 am to 6 pm, in response to the bandh call by the Samaikya Rashtra Parirakshana Vedika state unit. The organisation announced the bandh in all the 13 districts of Seemandhra on Tuesday. Pilgrims had to wait till evening to reach the shrine by vehicles or climb the hill to have the darshan of Lord Venkateswara.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) had made elaborate arrangements such as providing food and shelter to pilgrims at Tirumala and Tirupati. Snacks and refreshments were also served at Alipiri and other TTD guesthouses.

Bandhs were confined to  Tirupati town in the past without any disruption to vehicular service to the shrine. The much reduced services of state-run AP State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) from 700 to about 107 a day were the only sign of inconvenience pilgrims faced so far. The union had exempted services to Tirumala as mark of respect.

“We are not aware of the bandh, otherwise would have cancelled our trip,” said Kallurithalli Satish, a stranded pilgrim from Kochi.

Almost 30,000 pilgrims were on queue on Tuesday for darshan. Most were from the north and climbed the hill on foot. “There is no restriction of number of walkers to Tirumala and able bodied pilgrims are going by foot from Alipiri,” says T Ravi, TTD PRO. Many people were also stranded at Tirumala without transportation.

TTD officials admitted that offerings at the temple have come down by a third, while the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine daily has also reduced to 30,000 from 75,000. The wait for darshan has consequently less – about two to four hours as against 10-12 hours.

The Seemandhra bandh called by the pro-united Andhra Pradesh organizations brought normal life in the 13 districts in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to a halt. The strike had shut transport services and schools for the past 40 days. Now, the private educational institutions will also be closed for the week.

Lakhs of employees have boycotted work across government offices, going without pay, to convey their opposition to the division of Andhra Pradesh.

With the central government proceeding on the formation of Telangana, agitators in Seemandhra are stepping up pressure on legislators to reverse the decision.

(Published 24 September 2013, 20:00 IST)

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