Sabarimala: The police and district administration have made elaborate arrangements for makara vilakku festival at Sabarimala Ayyappan temple tomorrow.
Over 5,000 policemen have been posted at Pamba and Erumeli. Apprehensive over the chances of young women visiting the forest shrine in the last lap of the Makara vilakku festival season that may invite protests, barricades hahve been put up at many places and thorough security check is being carried out.
The police have stationed more armed companies as reserve forces in Pathanamthitta and Kollam. The units will remain in high operational readiness to be deployed wherever necessary at short notice.
The police have placed Thunderbolts, an elite commando unit which specialises in confronting active terrorist situations, on standby at strategic locations in the pilgrim area.
Sabarimala special commissioner M Manoj reviewed the preparations and security measures at a meeting held at Vandiperiyar. He directed officers to take the necessary safety precautions in Pulmedu, Parunthumpara and Panchalimedu areas, factoring in the heavy rush of devotees. An estimated half a million devotees throng Sabarimala every year for darshan on the auspicious day.
Precautionary measures have been taken to avert the likelihood of stampedes. In 2011, 104 people, who had come to witness the Makara vilaku, were killed and over 40 persons were injured when a jeep ploughed into pilgrims at Pullumedu. While some of the victims died after getting trapped under the wheels of the jeep, the accident created panic among the devotees, resulting in the stampede.
Proper arrangements to supply potable water to pilgrims have been taken up. Water tanks of 500 litre capacity will be put up at a gap of one km each from Kozhikkanam to Pullumedu.
Tankers will be used to replenish the tanks.BSNL has already erected a temporary mobile tower at Pullumedu, which will function till 15 January. Medical facilities, including ambulance service, will be provided at Pullumedu under the leadership of Health Department authorities.