Lakhs of devotees are expected to attend the festival to be held on Friday at Thiruvananthapuram’s Attukal temple.

4200 police staff 3000 corp workers in place for Keralas Attukal PongalaFile Pic, courtesy: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair
news Faith Thursday, March 01, 2018 - 12:46

With the Attukal Devi Temple authorities expecting several lakhs of devotees to attend the annual Pongala festival to be held on Friday, arrangements are in place to ensure that the event is conducted smoothly.

Held on the penultimate day of the Attukal temple festival, Pongala is the biggest ritual of the Thiruvananthapuram temple. Reportedly the largest congregation of women in an event, the entire city is getting ready for the festival.

Police arrangements

As many as 4,200 police personnel will be deployed as part of the security arrangements for the Pongala. In a press statement, Thiruvananthapuram City Police Commissioner P Prakash said that a police team with a Circle Inspector is also expected from Tamil Nadu for Pongala duty.

The temple, its premises and traffic control duty will be divided into four zones, under the control of four Superintendents of Police.

The responsibility of the zone comprising the temple and inner areas will be with the Women’s Battalion Commandant R Nishanthini. The outer zone, which comprises the area outside the temple compound, will be under Deputy Commissioner of Police G Jayadev. DCP PV Ajith, who is the security officer of the Sree Padmanabha Temple, will be in charge of the traffic zone, which will take care of traffic control and parking. The emergency zone, which will deal with causalities like fire or accidents, has been entrusted with DCP (Administration) N Ramesh.

For the first time, a women’s commando wing will be deployed on the temple premises. Apart from this, a Quick Response Team of the police will also be deployed.

In total  25 DySPs, 62 Circle Inspectors including 12 women CIs, 450 Sub-Inspectors, 1,200 women police personnel and 2,300 male police personnel will be assigned for duty. This year for the first time drones will be deployed for aerial surveillance. In addition to this, CCTV cameras have been installed in 65 spots. The CCTV visuals will be monitored at the city control room, at the special control room set up at Attukal and at aid posts.

Case will be registered against those who operate loudspeakers beyond the allowed sound limit, the statement said. Identity cards have been made mandatory for the staff of ambulances who will be at service on the day of the Pongala.

The police helpline numbers are 0471 2454301, 1091, 1090 and 9995399953.

“This time the deployment of police personnel is higher than that of the previous years. For Thursday and on the day of the Pongala, we have envisaged special schemes. The plan is to optimally deploy them rather than utilising them for one role. Police personnel will be deployed even on small, pocket roads. The City Police Commissioner will monitor the overall arrangements. Wireless communication is in place to deal with emergencies, if any,” DCP Jayadev told TNM.

Corporation support

The Corporation will strictly stick to the Green Protocol for the Pongala. “More than 3,000 workers have been deployed for cleaning work. Rs 5 lakh has been sanctioned for repairing the roads, on which Pongala will be offered, under the Corporation. For the first time in cooperation with the food safety commissionerate, license has been made mandatory for those who sell food, including ice cream, on the temple premises, to ensure that only quality products are sold,” said Deputy Mayor Rakhi Ravi Kumar.

Temple committee

This time around, the temple authorities expect lakhs of devotees to take part in the Pongala festival. Temple committee chairperson Raveendran Nair says that the committee estimates a bigger participation this year.

Speaking about the preparations for the Pongala festival, Raveendran says that the temple’s 800-odd volunteers will be pressed into service to manage the crowd.

“Apart from that, like every year, the police department will deploy nearly 4,200 personnel. There will be other officers in mufti who will ensure that women devotees can safely offer their prayers. The Fire department will be present; fire extinguishers have been installed in several places as a precautionary measure,” he says.

Raveendran added that several ambulances from government hospitals and other cooperative societies will be at the spot to provide immediate medical care if needed to devotees.

At a meeting convened by Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran on Tuesday it was also decided that Green protocol would be adhered to strictly at the Pongala. The meeting decided to prohibit the use of plastic items, including disposable cups, and use steel glasses and cups instead.

It may be mentioned here that the festival has come under a cloud after DGP Prisons R Sreelekha hit out against the Kuthiyottam ritual that is held every year as part of Pongala. Kuthiyottam is a ritual that involves piercing young boys with an iron hook, which DGP Sreelekha termed as “cruelty”. On Wednesday, the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights registered a suo-motu case against the ritual.