The Kerala government on Monday said it was “impractical” to have separate queues for women at Sabarimala, though it decided to facilitate their visits to the Ayyappa temple by providing better facilities.
A high-power committee meeting chaired by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan discussed various arrangements to be made for women devotees, days after the Supreme Court opened the gate of the temple for women of all ages.
On October 28, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.
Monday’s meeting also held that it would be “impractical” to have separate queues for women at the ‘sannidhanam’, the temple complex. “Worshippers have to wait for 8-10 hours in long queues for darshan and women devotees also need to be prepared for the same. We cannot do anything. Those who are prepared to wait for hours in long queues only (they) need to come,” Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
Women devotees would mostly be accompanied by their male relatives and other worshippers. In case of separate queues, there is a possibility of them getting separated from their family members, he said. However, separate washrooms and bathing ghats would be provided for women worshippers, he said.
There were also plans to restrain devotees from staying back at the ‘sannidhanam’ after worship. They would be encouraged to leave the shrine to avoid rush of pilgrims, he said. With a huge rush of devotees expected, talks will be held with the temple administration to increase the darshan timings and pooja days, he said.
For effective crowd control, digital booking facilities would be introduced this year on the model of Tirupati temple, the minister said. This would also help know the total number of devotees expected to visit the shrine each day beforehand and enable authorities to make better security arrangements, he said.
With more women devotees expected, there would be an increase in the number of female police personnel, the minister said, adding more CCTV cameras would be installed at various places on the route to the temple complex. Women police personnel would be posted at the holy ‘padinattam padi’ (18 steps) if needed, he added. This year’s Mandalam-Makaravillaku festival will be plastic-free, he said.
Chief secretary Tom Jose, chief minister’s private secretary MV Jayarajan, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) member KP Sankardas and DGP Loknath Behara were among those who participated in the meeting.
Meanwhile, BJP state president S Sreedharan Pillai said the party planned to launch state-wide agitations to protect the interest of Sabarimala devotees. “The BJP will take all steps to check the ruling CPI(M)’s efforts to destroy Sabarimala under the garb of the top court’s order,” he said. The government failed to make the court realise the significance and unique features of the hill shrine which resulted in such a verdict, he told reporters in Kozhikode.
A Kochi report said the Kerala high court on Monday directed the TDB to apprise it about the steps taken by it in view of the apex court’s decision on entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala. The direction was issued by a bench comprising Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Devan Ramachandran while considering a periodical report by the Sabarimala special commission. The board informed the court that it would submit the report in a week’s time.