Preparations at Sabarimala for Makara Jyoti

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on January 14, 2012

Preparations are in the last stages at Kerala’s Hindu pilgrim centre of mountainous Sabarimala for ensuring the safety of the millions of devotees expected to be present at the hill shrine and around to sight the holy flame, Makara Jyoti (Makara Vilakku), on Sunday in the context of the gruesome stampede at Pullumedu in Idukki district in which 102 pilgrims were killed.

The tragedy had occurred at the grassy summit of Pullumedu in the dark of the night on January 14, 2011 when devotees were returning home after having darshan at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala and sighting the Makara Jyoti, the flame that would flicker on a distant hill top on the evening of the ultimate day of the annual pilgrimage.

The Idukki district authorities said that all preparations had been completed for providing the basic facilities the pilgrims needed and senior police officials said that all steps had been taken to avoid discomforts to devotees and ensure their safety. The police said that they had been trying to comply with the stipulations of the commission that enquired into the Pullumedu tragedy.

The Justice MR Hariharan Nair Commission which enquired into the stampede had concluded that lapses on the part of several departments concerned with the conduct of the Sabarimala pilgrimage and convergence of large number of pilgrims at one place at one time were some of the reasons for the tragedy.

Special care would be taken not to allow vehicles in bad working condition to enter the road leading to Pullumedu, one of the best points for sighting the Makara Jyoti because of its altitude. The Public Works Department has erected temporary barricades at Uppupara to ensure that only vehicles in good working condition would cross that point.

The other two places pilgrims like to sight the Makara Jyoti from in Idukki district are Panchalimedu and Parunthumpara and in both places the PWD and the police would control the entry of pilgrims. The local administration bodies of the areas are busy arranging temporary lighting and other facilities.

As many as 25 mobile light towers are being set up at Pullumedu, Uppupara and Sathram road. Generators are also being arranged to provide lighting in these places.  One of the main reasons for last year’s stampede at Pullumedu was lack of lighting and this had also caused difficulties in carrying out rescue operations.

The authorities have assured that ambulance facilities would be available at all important points like Kumily, Vandipperiyar, Pullumeud and Sathram and medical units would be stationed in these places. Fire and Rescue personnel also would be stationed at all important points, they said.

Senior officials in the Police Department said there would be no complaint of absence of personnel at Pullumedu and other places this time. Independent reports had said that there were only two policemen for controlling thousands of devotees in the entire Pullumedu area but the Police Department had denied this.

The Lord Ayyappa shrine had opened for the 65-day annual Mandalam-Makara Vilakku pilgrimage on November 16. The shrine was closed after the 41-day Mandalam season on December 27 and reopened on December 30. The temple would now be closed after the annual pilgrimage on January 20.

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