Lack of facilities at Pamba irk pilgrims

Lack of adequate toilet facilities, shelter, food and transport in this traditional base camp of the Sabarimala Temple put to severe inconvenience of thousands of devotees. DH Photo

Lack of adequate toilet facilities, shelter, food and transport in this traditional base camp of the Sabarimala Temple put to severe inconvenience of thousands of devotees from across South India who thronged on the first day of Malayalam month Vrichigam.

There was chaos in Pamba with authorities yet to restore the structures and shops which were washed away in the unprecedented floods that hit Kerala in August this year. And the heavy police presence and restrictions imposed on pilgrims due to fear of protests due to Supreme Court verdict has also not gone down well with the visiting pilgrims.

Workers could be seen restoring structures and power lines in Pamba, from where the pilgrims begin their 4-km trek to Sannidhanam, the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala. And on Saturday, the day-long hartal called by Sangh Parivar outfits added to the woes of the pilgrims as many were stranded without food on way to Nilakkal, the new base camp for the pilgrims.

“This is my fourth visit to Sabarimala and never I experienced so much inconvenience like this time. There aren’t enough toilets and other basic facilities. The government and the Travancore Devaswom Board should have ensured that basic infrastructure was put in place before the annual pilgrim season began,” Arul, a devotee from Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu, told DH in Pamba.

Suresh Kumar, who had trekked to Pamba from Erumeli along with his friends, agreed that lack of basic infrastructure in Pamba is a major issue. “Many pilgrim come and take rest in Pamba before beginning their trek to Sannidhanam. With no sheds or shelter facility available in Pamba, people are either forced to stay in the open or begin their journey immediately after arriving from Nilackel,” he said.

Majority of the shelters and shops were washed away in the floods and restoring them is still on. Kandasamy, who comes every year from Kumili to work in Pamba during the season, said almost 50% of the shops and eateries are not functioning this time. Though bio-toilets have installed on the trekking path, one could not find them in Pamba, forcing people to relieve themselves in the open.

“It is not just men who come to Sabarimala, many women and girl children below the age of 10 come in large numbers. How can someone expect people to manage without enough toilets?” a woman pilgrim asked.

TDB, which manages the temple, said it could not repair the damaged facilities before the pilgrim season due to adverse weather and frenzied protests that took place when the temple opened for the first time in October after the Supreme Court verdict.

“And Pamba is now virtually under the control of Kerala Police and TDB does not have much to decide,” an official said.

 

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