SABARIMALA: With just one day to go for the Makaravilakku festival, the sharp decline in pilgrims’ arrival has shocked the TDB. While Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran blamed the BJP for the state off affairs, TDB officers and members privately admit that the restrictions imposed by the police have forced the pilgrims to postpone their travel plans. With only eight days left for the culmination of the pilgrimage season, the TDB is staring at a `100 crore decline in revenue. While the board was expecting around 4.5 lakh devotees for Makaravilakku, the trend during the past four days indicates that the figure will be less than two lakh.
In the previous years, the temple had experienced heavy flow of pilgrims one week prior to the Makaravilakku festival. Last year, more than 10 lakh pilgrims had visited the temple during the festival. However, the temple has reported an average footfall of around 65,000 pilgrims during the past four days. The pilgrims’ arrival at Pamba stood at 44,100 at 5 pm on Saturday.
TDB member K P Sankardas say that the protests over the implementation of the SC verdict on entry of young women to the temple and the restrictions imposed by the police have contributed to the decline in pilgrims’ arrival. “There were seven hartals apart from the two-day national strike. The reports regarding continuing tension at Sabarimala created a bad impression among the pilgrims outside the state. Though the board had conducted a campaign in other states, it didn’t yield much result. It is the lack of teamwork that resulted in the present situation. All stakeholders should understand that the repercussions of the stalemate will have an adverse impact on all of us,” he said.