SABARIMALA: Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam general secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan has said free service facilities would be extended to 100 centres from 70 helpline centres, as facilities are limited compared to the number of pilgrims who flock during the peak season. When ‘Express’ contacted Kummanam, he said that the samajam would open 30 free helpline centres, including five each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the state alone, helpline centres would go up to 65 from 50, Kummanam said.
The pilgrim centres would offer basic facilities like free food, medicated drinking water, comfort stations, information centres and rest rooms, he added. Kummanam said that the samajam’s Sannidhanam centre would offer free food distribution round-the-clock during the Makaravilaku season, from December 31 to January 15. In addition, during the peak Mandalam season, the facility would function till the closure of the shrine at 11.30 pm, he said. At the Erumely and Koonankara pilgrim centres, free food facility would be widened to cover more pilgrims by extending the time in the evening, he said.
The samajam would deploy vehicles to distribute food packets and drinking water between Laha and Nilackal where traffic congestion usually occurs owing to the heavy inflow of pilgrims, Kummanam said.
Kummanam added that the samajam would approach the Travancore Devaswom Board to provide a temporary facility at Nilackal to open a pilgrim helpline centre. The samajam has decided to open a centre at Nilackal as there is no free food facility at present. The samajam would be ready to open a free-service facility at Sathram, if Devaswom authorities offer a proper building to facilitate the start of a helpline centre, he said. After the closure of the Vallakadavu-Uppupara route, thousands of pilgrims take the Sathram route to reach Sabarimala for darsan during the Makaravilakku season.
The samajam has also sought the intervention of the Forest Department to engage the Eco-Development Committee on the Uppupara route to set up shops, to ensure the supply of soft drinks and food items, Kummanam said.