TDB returns to bullock cart age

via Pioneer News Service | Pathanamthitta published on December 14, 2007

Keeping four imported state-of-the-art food-processing plants out of commission, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) constituted Left-nominated members went back to the bullock cart age on Friday by distributing Aravana, the main prasadam of the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, to pilgrims in the utensils they brought. The TDB, which administers the temple, was forced to take the decision to dispense Aravana in the pilgrims’ own containers after all steps to rectify the problems in packing the prasadam in eco-friendly containers and distributing them efficiently failed.

Problems in the distribution of Aravana had almost led to law-and-order problems at the abode of Lord Ayyappa after pilgrims were fed up with the long and useless waits in the queues for the prasadam. The issue, which started at the very onset of the present Mandalavilakku pilgrimage season, had even given rise to political controversies with the intervention by Devaswom Minister and CPI(M) leader G Sudhakaran.

The distribution of Aravana in pilgrims’ own containers started by 10.00 am Friday. Each pilgrim was being given one litre to five litres of the prasadam and the prices taken were Rs 176 per litre and Rs 44 per 250 ml.

The new method is being adopted on an experimental basis for one week. The authorities are also considering the possibilities of distributing Aravana at Sabarimala’s base camp Pampa also.

Though the mode of distribution had been changed, it was still giving rise to complaints from the pilgrims. They were complaining that there were irregularities in the dispensation and that the measures were not correct.

The Aravana distribution had never been regularised since the start of the pilgrimage season on November 17, when the authorities found that there were not enough stock to be distributed among the pilgrims.

As a result, the distribution was restricted to four containers per pilgrim, which was later reduced to two per pilgrim. The TDB on November 17 itself cancelled the contract awarded to Elite Exports for manufacture of Aravana.

Aravan distribution came to a standstill on Thursday after the 60,000 eco-friendly containers had developed cracked during the filling of Aravana.

The issue became a political controversy after Minister Sudhakaran ordered a probe into the alleged role of P Narayanan and PK Sumathikkutty Amma, TDB members nominated by LDF partners CPI and RSP respectively.

The two parties objected to the action by Sudhakaran, who had exempted board president CK Guptan, nominated by the CPI(M) from the ambit of the probe. Later, the State Cabinet had to order a comprehensive probe into the issue.

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by Elite Exports owner Shanavas, challenging the act of TDB of taking over the Aravana manufacture by cancelling the contract awarded to his company. Dismissing the petition, a division bench of the Court said that the petitioner could approach a Civil Court.

The TDB had submitted in the Court that the contract was cancelled because the company had violated the stipulations.

However, the Court pointed out that it was upto the Civil Court to decide who had violated the stipulations. The division bench comprised of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice TR Ramachandran Nair.

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