TDB fails to start Aravana production at Sabarimala

via | Pathanamthitta published on October 15, 2008

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has failed to start manufacture of Aravana, the Chief Prasadam of the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala on Tuesday as per the schedule drawn up to avoid any disruption in the distribution of the prasadam in the coming pilgrimage season in the wake of the problems occurred last year.

The Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season at Sabarimala is exactly a month away and any further lapse in meeting the schedule in Aravana production might cause serious problems. The production of Aravana was to start using twenty furnaces and an additional boiler on Tuesday as per the earlier plan.

As per the decision taken by a review meeting convened by Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, the manufacture of Aravana was to start on Monday, in a move to make Aravana available in plenty during the coming pilgrimage season. But this schedule could not be met due to the works related to the installation of the new furnaces and boiler.

Board sources said the production cold not start also on Tuesday as the installation and maintenance works of the plants could not be completed in time. However, production of Aravana had indeed been started on Tuesday morning but this was meant for distribution during the monthly poojas.

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple would open on Thursday evening for the routine monthly pooja for Thulam month, which starts on Friday. The shrine will be closed after the poojas on October 21. The Aravana being manufactures now at the Sannidhanam, the abode of Ayyappa, would be sufficient only for distribution during these six days. The production of the prasadam for the main pilgrimage season would start only after October 21.

The number of counters for distribution of Aravana was raised from 16 to 20. One more boiler of 850-KW potential had been installed for the manufacturing purpose. Sources said that the trial run of the furnaces was successful.

The plan of the Devaswom Board is to keep a million cans filled with Aravana by the start of the Mandalam-Makara Vilakku season so that there will be no shortage of prasadam as it had happened last year. Shortage of Aravana and disruption in its distribution had led to a near law-and-order situation in Sabarimala during the pilgrimage season last year.

In June last, the Devaswom Board had decided to take over the manufacture of Aravana on the conviction that it was better than entrusting the job to some outside agency. This decision was taken after the board had on May 7 last invited tenders for the process. The board had taken over the task of producing Aravana in the last Mandalavilakku season after it was forced to cancel the contract given to a Kayamkulam-based company following its failure to meet the demands of the Devaswom and the devotees.

The Aravana imbroglio last year had caused a lot of credibility-erosion for the TDB headed by a CPI(M) nominee – CK Guptan – and for the LDF Government, which was attacked by critics on the ground that the whole problem was the result of an atheist heading a body that looked after the administration of places of worship. The contract for production of Aravana was given to the Kayamkulam-based company as doubts had come up about the functioning of the former contractors Panchami Foods.

Elite Foods had taken the contract for making Aravana at Rs 5.90 a can, which some said was an impractically low quote. Guptan said that he was forced to agree to the proposal due to some foul play by his colleagues on the board, P Narayanan, a nominee of the CPI and Sumathikkutty Amma, nominated by RSP. Guptan had alleged that the board members were neck-deep in corruption and the Devaswom Minister supported him. This had led to a feud between the CPI and CPI(M) within the LDF.

Meanwhile, preparations for the pilgrimage season at Sabarimala have started with the appointment of a high-level committee by the Kerala High Court for the efficient conduct of the Mandalam-Makara Vilakku festival starting November 15. The panel is headed by Additional Chief Secretary and Special Sabarimala Commissioner K Jayakumar.

The court has suggested that its permission should be sought for spending money above Rs 5 lakh and that the Devaswom funds could be used for the conduct of the festival and its preparations. The High Court appointed the committee considering the recommendations in the report submitted by the Devaswom Ombudsman.

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