A surge in the number of pilgrims visiting Sabarimala has exposed critical inadequacies in crowd management, security provision, and support services. With approximately 90,000 daily pilgrims and a mere 1,850 police personnel, including only 615 on an eight-hour duty shift, crowd control struggles prevail, particularly at the Pamba pilgrimage starting point.
Comparatively, reports suggest an allocation of 2,250 police personnel for an event in Idukki district and 2,200 for the Chief Minister’s security in Ernakulam, significantly overshadowing the deployment at Sabarimala.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) faced criticism for insufficient bus services, triggering late-night protests by pilgrims. The High Court intervened, registering a suo moto case regarding the overwhelming rush and resulting difficulties faced by thousands of pilgrims, many of whom returned without the darshan due to accessibility issues.
The Thiruvithamkoor Devaswom Board attributed the congestion to a “natural” weekend rush but must clarify the sudden influx on December 11 and 12.
Amidst these issues, Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan attributed the situation to altered queue systems and an unprecedented daily turnout of 100,000 pilgrims. He considered this occurrence as regular during peak times.
Tragically, a ten-year-old girl pilgrim reportedly succumbed due to prolonged exposure to the sun and lack of water while waiting in the crowds.
Political figures voiced condemnation and concern. BJP State President K Surendran accused the Pinarayi Government of neglect, emphasising inadequate facilities, lack of crowd control, and compromised devotee safety. He called for immediate action, warning of potential protests.
Former Mizoram Governor and BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan condemned the insufficient preparations by Dewaswom Board, Police, and KSRTC, labeling the situation a violation of constitutional rights. He decried an incident involving police assaulting a pilgrim, highlighting the injured pilgrim’s need for medical treatment.
Hindu Aikyavedi state working president Valsan Thillankerry held authorities accountable for the turmoil at Sabarimala, stressing the mistreatment endured by Hindu pilgrims.
The episode underscores the distressing treatment faced by Hindu pilgrims, eliciting criticism from various quarters, including the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and even dissent within LDF workers.