Sabarimala: Three-member panel visits Nilackal, Pamba

Nilackal/Pamba: The three-member High-Power monitoring committee, appointed by the Kerala High court, Monday visited Nilackal, the base camp and Pamba to assess the facilities for Sabarimala pilgrims.

The committee, comprising retired judges P R Raman and S Sirijagan and DGP A Hemachandran, visited the two places this evening. Justice Raman said he was satisfied with the facilities at Nilackal.

A false campaign was going on, saying that there were very few facilities for pilgrims at the two places, DGP Hemachandran said at Nilackal. “The media should telecast the real picture,” he told reporters.

However, more facilities needed to be given to police personnel, deployed for temple duty, he said. The members visited Pamba, which saw the maximum devastation during the August floods with many facilities for the pilgrims, including toilets, being washed away.

The committee will visit the sannidhanam (temple complex) tomorrow and hold discussions with officials of various departments, including the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hill shrine.

The high court had appointed the committee following large scale complaints that the facilities at the temple complex were meagre. The committee, which held its first meeting at Kochi Sunday, had said they would assess the existing facilities at the temple complex and would make suggestions to add more facilities, if needed.

“Our top priority will be basic needs like toilets and water facilities. These things should be available for all. Food must be served properly. These are the things that will be assessed,” Justice Raman had said.

The Kerala High Court had on 27 November ordered that no protests or demonstrations should be held at the ‘Sannidhanam‘ (temple complex) of the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, holding that it was not a place for such activities.

It had also set aside the ‘unilateral’ restrictions imposed by police on the devotees and appointed a three-member team as its observers there during the ongoing Mandala-Makaravilakku festival season.

The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right wing groups against the government’s decision to implement the 28 September Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to pray at the temple.

Since the Apex court verdict, no women in the 10-50 age group has succeeded in offering prayers at the shrine, where the deity is “Naishtika Brahmachari” (perennial celebate), The Ayyappa temple was opened on  16 November for the over two-month-long pilgrimage season amid tension.