With just over a fortnight left for the Mandala Kaalam (pilgrimage season) to begin at the famed Sabarimala shrine in Kerala, the state government and the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) are locked in a blame game over the delay in completing various sanctioned projects ahead of the festive season.
State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran on a recent visit to the Sabarimala Sannidhanam expressed dissatisfaction at the slow pace of work, blaming the TDB for the delay.
The TDB on the other hand held the bureaucratic apathy shown by the various state departments as the reason for not being able to complete the works in time for the annual pilgrimage season at the end of the year.
âAn âannadhaanamâ project wherein 5000 devotees could be catered to at one go was in the offing. However, the current one which caters for only 2000 devotees is yet to be completed -which they say- will hopefully be completed in the next 15 days,â the Minister said.
The TDB had called for tenders for 153 projects to the tune of Rs 4.75 crores on 09 September. Kadakampally maintained that it was just not possible for the Board to get all these works done in time for the heavy rush of devotees who throng Sabarimala for the special pilgrim season that spans three months.
The end-of-the-year Mandala Kaalam generally falls between 15 November and 20 Januaryeach year. During the rest of the year, the shrine remains open only for the first five days of each month, according to the Malayalam calendar.
According to Murali -Sabarimala PRO- over three crores of devotees had visited the temple during the 2015 Mandala season, with the figures usually seeing a rise of 20-25% every year.
TDP officials however say that their move to install metal detectors, scanners and a new shed at Pampa from where devotees begin the formal trek to the Sannidhanam were stalled by the state Forest Department.
Ajay Tharayil -Devaswom Board member- averred that this seemed to be the norm rather than the exception, when it came to expecting cooperation from the authorities concerned in ensuring that devotees faced no hassles during the festive rush at the temple.
Reports say that the Minister also expressed concerns about the proposed setting up of around 200 drinking water kiosks en route to the shrine in the backdrop of the ban on plastic, which he believed could not be done in such a short span of time.
Kadakampally has called for an emergency meeting of officials of the state Water Resources Department to ensure these are completed within the said timeframe.