Yadadri visitors pray for deliverance

Devotees accuse temple officials of cutting costs on buses over their convenience & safety
Devotees scramble to board a minibus arranged by the TSRTC and temple authorities to reach the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthanam for darshan
Devotees scramble to board a minibus arranged by the TSRTC and temple authorities to reach the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthanam for darshan

NALGONDA : The authorities at the Yadadri Devasthanam, which receives substantial donations from devotees every day, are facing allegations from pilgrims of failing to arrange adequate number of buses. Devotees say that due to fewer buses, those available are usually overcrowded, posing a risk to their lives while travelling on the ghat road.

They allege that temple authorities have made cost cutting a priority instead of arranging additional buses for convenience and safety of devotees. They also allege that some staff at the bus stand are coercing devotees to overcrowd the buses with excuses like, “there won’t be another bus for half an hour. If you wait, you’ll miss darshan time and the queue will grow.”

Following the renovation of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple, the number of devotees visiting it has increased to 40,000 to 50,000 per day, and this number climbs to 60,000 to 70,000 on weekends. A parking fee of Rs 500 is charged for each vehicle going to the hill, prompting many devotees from various areas to opt for free bus services.

Overloaded buses

According to sources, TSRTC operates 10 to 15 minibuses for this purpose, with an additional five to 10 buses on weekends. The temple authorities pay Rs 18,000 for each free bus arranged for the devotees’ convenience, provided the bus completes a journey of 250 km.

The authorities have appointed two officials at the Yadagirigutta depot to record the number of kilometres the bus has travelled. However, due to an influx of devotees, buses are not running to the hilltop. In minibuses with a capacity of 30 seats, an additional 15 to 25 devotees travel standing.

According to norms, ghat road buses should not exceed their passenger capacity. However, there are allegations that the temple authorities avoid arranging more buses to the hillock to avoid paying more to the RTC.

Sources stated that the temple’s daily income ranges from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh and over Rs 50 lakh during weekends and other holidays.

S Niranjan, a devotee from Hanamkonda, alleged that despite the high number of visitors, fewer buses are in service. He said: “I waited with my family, including two children, for half an hour to go to the hill, but only one minibus arrived. Due to the rush, the bus filled up in two minutes, leaving some passengers standing. Moreover, those with small children and elderly family members are unable to board the bus.”

M Srinivas, a devotee from Secunderabad, told TNIE: “I visit Yadadri every two months with my family. And every time we come we have to travel standing in the bus as there are not enough buses to take the devotees to the hillock. I face a similar situation even while returning after darshan.”

Despite receiving substantial donations from devotees, the Yadadri temple authorities are reluctant to allocate funds for devotees’ comfort. During the reopening of the temple on March 21, 2022, the then chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced free bus services to the hilltop.

Danger lurks

Sources said that when the authorities sought the state government to cover the cost of these buses, they were denied. Consequently, the temple authorities were instructed to manage the expense by themselves. Since then, devotees have been alleging that the temple authorities have reduced the number of buses to cut costs.

Devotees recalled that on September 11, 2018, around 61 people were killed when an RTC bus carrying more devotees than its capacity fell into a valley on Kondagattu Ghat Road in Jagtial district. Concerns persist on Yadadri Ghat Road as well, where RTC mini-buses, with a capacity of 30, are often packed with over 50 passengers.

It is alleged that even after experts warning of danger if overloaded buses overturning, both uphill and downhill, no additional buses are put into service. Many urge the state government to act swiftly, increase the number of buses, adhere to seating capacities and prioritise devotees’ safety.

Speaking to TNIE, Yadadri temple DEO Bhaskara Sharma said: “Buses are operating to and from the hill based on the number of devotees. I admit that minibuses are usually overcrowded, but it should be noted that devotees are disregarding the available buses, despite announcements from staff at the bus stands urging them not to stand during the journey.”

Yadagirigutta TSRTC depot manager B Srinivas asserted that they are sending buses to the hilltop as per the request of Yadadri temple officials.

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The New Indian Express