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No End in Sight to Pilgrim Woes at Sabarimala

SABARIMALA:  The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has urged the Forest Department to initiate immediate measures to provide basic facilities, including medicated water and food items to pilgrims on the Sathram-Uppupara traditional forest path.Talking to Express, TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said that hundreds of pilgrims who take the Sathram-Uppupara forest route to the holy abode of Lord Ayyappa, have to endure extreme hardships due to lack of basic amenities, including potable water. On the 15-km forest path, except for a small refreshment centre at Uppupara, which does not have adequate supply to meet the demand, pilgrims have to continue their arduous journey without food and water, he said.

The Forest Department should permit voluntary organisations like the Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam (SASS) Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham and to set up camps on the trekking path to provide medicated water and eatables to pilgrims, he said.The TDB president urged the Transport and Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan to relaunch Kumily-Uppupara KSRTC chain service in the larger interests of thousands of pilgrims. The chain service would give pilgrims the twin advantage of saving money and time, Prayar said.

It may be recalled the about 30-odd shops were run by the eco-development committees on the Uppupara forest route till the Pulmedu tragedy happened. After bringing the Sathram-Uppupara forest area under the purview of the Periyar Tiger Reserve post tragedy, no outlets were allowed on the forest path for the last four years. The move to permit tourist vehicles on the Vallakadavu-Kozhikanam route to reach Gavi and giving a thumbs-down to ply the KSRTC chain service in the Vallakadavu-Pachakanam-Uppupara route, has exposed the double standards of the Forest Departmen