Amidst reports that the government is actively considering to raise the daily limit of pilgrims to Sabarimala, a high-level committee meeting has assessed the preparations in place at Sannidhanam for accommodating more pilgrims in the coming days.
The meeting, convened by Sabarimala ADM Arun K. Vijayan and presided over by Special Officer B. Krishnakumar, expressed satisfaction at the preparations for darsan in line with the COVID-19 protocol as well as at the functioning of various departments.
Speaking on the occasion, the ADM noted that the pilgrimage season was progressing under great caution.
On the occasion, he also sought to allay fears over reports of a temporary employee testing positive at Sannidhanam and said the patient and his primary contact had been transferred to a COVID-19 first-line treatment centre. Also, steps had been initiated to quarantine those associated with them.
The meeting, held late on Monday, also discussed the proposals by various departments on what should be done in case of an increase in footfall. It further decided to expand the COVID-19 protocol committee and made it mandatory for the officials on duty to adhere to the pandemic guidelines.
Directive to traders
The employees of the temporary shops at Sabarimala have been directed to produce COVID-19 negative certificates, besides a certificate of disinfection of their shops
A decision on carrying out sanitation drives at Sannidhanam and Valiya Nadapandal at regular intervals too was made.
In view of the pandemic, the daily number of pilgrims to the hill shrine has been fixed at 1,000 on weekdays and 2,000 on holidays. The proposal to raise the daily limit primarily stems from the sagging finances of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which has been in a crisis following the locking down of temples.
The Ayyappa temple used to receive between 80,000 and one lakh pilgrims a day during the pilgrimage season and it clocked a revenue of ₹263 crore during the previous pilgrimage season. But with the restrictions in place, traders refused to participate in the tendering of shops while the revenue through sale of offerings and collection boxes too recorded a sharp drop.
9,000 in first week
As per estimates, around 9,000 pilgrims visited the temple during the first week of the ongoing Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, which began on November 16. The daily income during the season currently stands around ₹10 lakh on weekdays and ₹20 lakh on weekends.
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