With the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season in Sabarimala kicking off on Wednesday, authorities have made elaborate arrangements to welcome the devotees.
According to Revenue Minister K. Rajan, the Kerala government is expecting about 40 lakh pilgrims to visit the hill shrine this season. A fund of ₹30 crore has been allotted for the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage this year.
“The flow of pilgrims is expected to be much higher this time and the arrangements have been made accordingly. The District Collector has been tasked with coordinating the arrangements for welcoming the devotees. Emergency operation centres have been set up at Pampa, Nilackal and Sannidhanam,” said the Minister.
Only two lakh devotees will be allowed at the Sannidhanam at a given point of time. If the number of devotees exceeds the limit, the inflow will be regulated from the Swami Ayyappan Road to the Sannidhanam. Further, the number of pilgrims will be updated to the District Collector in every three hours, the Minister added.
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) will camp at Sabarimala during the pilgrimage season. The Collector will be assisted by eight Deputy Collectors, 13 tahsildars and 500 officials from outside the district. The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has prepared a map marking the places prone to crowding and accidents.
District Collector Divya S. Iyer on Tuesday visited the key points along the Sabarimala pilgrim circuit and reviewed the arrangements. The Safe Zone project by the Motor Vehicles department also took off to a start during the day.
Meanwhile, the incessant rains lashing the Sabarimala forests have affected the completion of infrastructure works within the pilgrimage zone, including renovation of the Neelimala trekking path. “The auctioning of the toilet complex and shops at Pampa are in the final stages and is expected to be completed within a few days into the season,” said an official of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).
Devotees, especially from neighbouring States, have begun trickling in to the key base stations of Erumely and Chengannur. The TDB expects at least 50,000 devotees to trek up the hill on the opening day on November 17.