No place to sleep at Ayyappa’s abode

via http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/others/no-place-sleep-ayyappa%E2%80%99s-abode-467 published on November 20, 2011

By Krishnakumar K.E. – Deccan Chronicle – Sabarimala

Thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees, especially from neighbouring states, are finding it hard to find a cheap accommodation at Sannidhanam after the Devaswom Board demolished 19 of the 50 shelter houses and rented out a few others for commercial purposes this season.

The board’s move is part of the Sabarimala master plan under which it is proposed to make six acres surrounding the temple free of buildings. However, the demolition work carried out at Pandithavalam has not only made the earth loose but also left the over one-acre of land lying idle.

It is cited that the place was made free of buildings to facilitate pilgrims watch Makarajyothi and to avoid any stampede mishaps.

“The space stands idle now and mud will flow down to the prasadam distribution complex and its premises once the rains begin, probably within the next few days. Thousands of devotees who reach Sannidhanam at night and wait to offer prayers at early morning the next day are forced to sleep on walkways and open spaces,” Kummanam Rajashekharan, general secretary, Hindu Aikya Vedi said. It is estimated that on important days, 10,000 people stay back at Sannidhanam.

Till last year, there were 50 shelter houses, each accommodating a minimum 150 devotees. Now only 21 remain, leaving about 3, 500 people daily with no place to stay.

More shelter houses might have met the same fate but some of the organisations like M.N. Nambiar Trust moved the court, and managed to stop their demolition “till an alternative facility is made”.

“While the shelter houses charge only Rs 10, the guest houses collect anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 3000 for a night and the pilgrim centres around Rs 1000 a day. The poor devotees, many of them come with children, are forced to spend the night at open places at the mercy of the nature. The board openly admits they want minimum pilgrims to stay back at Sannidhanam. They are employing crowd control measures instead of crowd management steps,” Kummanam said.

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