With just days left for the Makaravilakku festival to begin at Sabarimala, a high-level meeting held here on Tuesday decided to impose restrictions on the entry of pilgrims to the forest shrine in view of theunfolding COVID-19 situation.The meeting, convened by Arjun Pandian, Additional District magistrate of Sabarimala, reviewed the arrangements in place for accommodating the pilgrims on the festival day.
The protocol for crowd control will be formulated during a meeting to be convened at Pampa on Wednesday. Authorities are anticipating about 1.5 lakh devotees to turn up across different vantage points for Makarajyothi darshan this time.“Pilgrims will be restricted at Pampa in view of the Thiruvabharanam procession on the Makaravilakku day and there will be restrictions on KSRTC bus schedules and at both Nilackal and Pampa,” said the official.
The cleaning works at Pandithavalam and Annadana Mandapam, from where most number of devotees are expected to view the Makaravilakku, are nearing completion . Anticipating a heavy rush, the Travancore Devaswom Board has set up 240 toilets in two additional blocks.An emergency medical care system will be opened inthe newly constructed building at Pandithavalam. The presence of the Fire and Rescue Service too will be ensured at the location. The number of sanitation workers at the hilltop will be raised from the current strength of 173.In view of the anticipated rise in footfalls, police deployment in and around the hilltop too will be intensified. Taking into consideration the possibility of pilgrims camping at the location from Wednesday onward, exit points are being set up to ensure asafe return of devotees after the Makaravilakku Darshan. The devotees will be prevented from climbing on top of buildings at the Sannidhanam to view the Makaravilakku. The entrance to these buildings will be locked on Wednesday and the keys will be kept at the police control room.
Power and water supply
As part of crowd control, the authorities have been also directed to ensure adequate supply of water and power at these locations.While 10 water points have already been established, the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom volunteers will be deployed at more locations to supply drinking water. Additional stretcher units will be deployed at Sopanam, Vavarunada, Annadana Mandapam, Pandithavalam, and Saramkuthy.Meanwhile,the Pathanamthitta district police have rolled out a traffic plan for the devotees’ vehicles by dividing the district into 13 different zones.