The practice of VIP Break Darshans that gave privileged access to beat the queue at the Tirumala temple has been abolished effective from Thursday. The decision was taken a week ago by the newly appointed Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Chairman YV Subba Reddy, who intends to replace the existing system with a new one.
Speaking to media on Wednesday, Subba Reddy said, "We have come to a collective decision after many days of deliberation with the EO. From today, the L1, L2, L3 system is being abolished. We do not wish to hurt the feelings of senior dignitaries but we wish to help the regular devotees who stand in long queues for darshan. In front of the deity, everyone is an equal devotee."
The VIP Break Darshan system gave ticketed entry to some VIPs so that they could skip the long queues and the crowd. But it had led to long-standing accusations of discrimination from the devotees who would have to wait for hours.
The L1 list was for VVIP officials like judges, higher cadre officials in government organisations and sitting ministers. The L2 was for TTD employees, their family members and lower level of officials and government representatives. Those applying to the L3 layer could only gain VIP access through recommendation letters obtained from sitting MPs, legislators, higher cadre officials and TTD employees. This system has now been abolished.
The TTD chairman said there would still be a provision for visiting dignitaries which will be announced at a later time.
The move by the TTD to scrap the system comes a day before the state government was to set file a counter-affidavit at the Andhra Pradesh High Court in regard to a petition calling for the abolition of the practice of VIP Break Darshan filed in March this year. The court had asked on Monday the state government to respond after the petitioner pointed out that the decision to scrap the VIP Break Darshan was taken when by the chairman, despite no approval from the TTD board. "A unilateral statement by Chairman without the consent of the board doesn't pass the muster of legal scrutiny." argued the petitioner Umesh Chandra in court.
The former minister and TTD chairman Putta Sudhakar Yadav, expressed his support for the changes. "I had a problem with the nomenclature before we implemented it. Only the name is VIP, the VIPs are the devotees. It's good that the new chairman is taking decisions, I welcome good decisions," he said.