To ensure full utilisation of daily quota
As the second leg of the annual pilgrimage season in Sabarimala begins on December 31, the forest shrine is slated to witness a further surge in footfall with the authorities set to permit all devotees reaching Nilackal to ascend the hillock.
The move follows a directive of the Kerala High Court, which asked the police to permit spot booking at Nilackal for all available slots in a particular day to ensure full utilisation of the daily quota of pilgrims. The directive takes a cue from a report by the Sabarimala Special Commissioner M. Manoj that “the total number of devotees at the Sannidhanam is much lower than the upper limit of 60,000 fixed in the Government Order.”
“In addition to 10,000 slots already available, spot booking can be permitted in all the remaining vacant on a particular day, so that maximum number of devotees turning up at Nilackal can be allowed darsan,” the court said. These bookings, however, will have to be limited within the permissible daily quota of 60,000.
Official sources said a high-level meeting attended by the Additional Director General of Police S. Sreejith and officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) had decided to implement the step when the temple reopened for the Makaravilakku festival. “This effectively means no person reaching the hill camp will be barred from ascending the hillock,” the official said.
Despite the quota of 60,000 visitors, the highest daily footfall recorded during the just concluded Mandalam season was around 43,000 pilgrims.
In his report, the Special Commissioner anticipated that more pilgrims would turn up at Nilackal for spot booking. “If spot booking slots are limited to 10,000 a day at Nilackal, there is a likelihood of pilgrims being stranded and it may give rise to law and order issues,” it noted.
According him, it would be better to provide the police a discretion to permit incremental increase in spot booking slots, in case of arrival of pilgrims over the permitted quota and issue coupons on the same day itself.
“It is to be noted that, even now the entire pilgrims who have availed themselves of the virtual queue slots are not turning up and there is underutilisation of slots. Therefore, even if incremental increase in spot booking slots are given, there would not be huge excess in daily quota,” the report added.
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