Curbs on fleecing of pilgrims by EDCs needed

via P T Mohanan Pillai-www.expressbuzz.com published on November 12, 2008

PATHANAMTHITTA: The thousands of pilgrims who opt the Erumely-Azhutha- Karimala route to reach Sabarimala for the darshan of Lord Ayyappa during the Mandalam- Makaravilakku season are being fleeced by the 700-odd EDC shops, run under the direct control of the Forest Department.

Though several review meetings on Sabarimala at various levels including the Chief Minister, Devaswom Minister and the high-level committee were held, the issue of the exploitation of the pilgrims on the traditional forest route was neither discussed nor taken up.

On the 40-km traditional forest route comprising strenuous trekking trails and steep slopes, hardly any facility is offered to pilgrims by the Government departments concerned.

Severe shortage of drinking water is a serious problem at all the important centres on the path such as Kallidamkunnu, Injiparakotta and Karimala, where thousands of pilgrims camp during the peak days of the mandala pooja and Makaravilakku season.

ABSENCE OF DEPT AUTHORITIES

The complete neglect of the the traditional route by Government departments such as Revenue, Health and Kerala Water Authority is affecting the pilgrims.

The EDC shops, set up with the noble objective of empowerment and strengthening of the people who rely on forests for their livelihood, especially the tribals, are managed by none other than the benamis of employees of the forest stations on the route.

People from far off places, who hardly have any connection with forests, such as Malayalappuzha, Puthukulam, Ranni-Perunad and Seethathode, are running majority of the shops.

NO PRICE-LIST

Though it is mandatory to display boards stating the prices of various food items, majority of EDC shops do not adhere to this. A pilgrim, who narrated his bitter experience during the past season to this correspondent, who questioned about the prices of food items received threatening replies from the shop licensees.

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