Sir — The Makaravilakku festival in the Sabarimala temple saw an unprecedented rush this year (“Stampede blame on jeep-auto collision”, Jan 16). The Sabarimala shrine reportedly earns a very high revenue, which goes to the government-controlled Travancore Devaswom Board. But nothing is being done by the board to improve the infrastructure related to the safety of pilgrims. The deaths of more than 100 pilgrims indicate the quality of security that was being provided to the worshippers. There are also allegations that the board has to seek the government’s permission to take any decision pertaining to the improvement of facilities. However, Kerala’s churches and mosques are free to manage their own money and take independent decisions. The rules should be the same for all religious institutions.
Instead of blaming one another, the board should think of ways to avert such mishaps in the future. It should take steps to put up proper lighting, fences and barricades and appoint volunteers to help the devotees. Perhaps the Sabarimala temple authorities could learn about the preventive measures required to avert such tragedies from the Saibaba temple in Shirdi.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — Stampedes at major pilgrimage centres have become an issue of concern in India. Recently, over a 100 devotees lost their lives at the Sabarimala temple after a collision between a jeep and an autorickshaw. The incident is a grim reminder that the authorities concerned are not equipped to put an end to such events. In fact, a number of people lost their lives in a temple in Jodhpur as a result of poor crowd management. Such deadly stampedes have become more frequent in recent times due to the indifference shown by the authorities to the safety of devotees. The accident at Sabarimala is a wake-up call not only for the Kerala government but also for the managements of all other major shrines in India. The government should establish guidelines about the precautions that ought to be taken while managing crowds. It should also deploy trained police personnel to control the throng of pilgrims at such places. A disaster management team should be stationed at pilgrimage centres so that relief could be sent in the shortest possible time when a mishap takes place. Improving the physical infrastructure would also help prevent such occurrences in the future.
Ramesh G. Jethwani, Bangalore
Sir — The people killed in the Sabarimala incident were devotees of Lord Ayyappa. They were on their way back after celebrating the Makaravilakku festival. The stampede was the biggest mishap in Kerala after 107 passengers of the Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram Island Express died when the train fell off the Perumon bridge across the Ashatamudi lake in Kollam district in 1988.
The huge rush at the Sabarimala temple and the narrow roads are the main reasons behind the accident. The precautions taken by the government to avoid such disasters have come to nought. More scientific planning is required to administer the crowds and the traffic to make the Sabarimala shrine safe for visitors.
K.A. Solaman, Alappuzha, Kerala
Sir — It is unfortunate that a number of pilgrims died and many more got injured at the Sabarimala temple. Though the crowds going to Sabarimala have been increasing with every passing year, the roads and other pathways for the pilgrims continue to remain narrow because of the hilly terrain. Human nature is such that after the completion of any event or ritual, everyone wants to return home in a hurry. This is exactly what happened with the pilgrims at Sabarimala. Had the devotees been patient and followed the rules laid down by the government and the temple authorities, the stampede could have been avoided.
The Kerala government is doing everything possible to keep this annual event free of mishaps. But such disasters continue to take place as a result of the impatient nature of the pilgrims. Something similar had also taken place way back in 1999.
If the devotees decide not to take lessons from the past, such incidents are bound to occur in the future. Neither the Kerala government nor Lord Ayyappa can be held responsible for the deaths in that case.
Yours faithfully, S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — Mukul Kesavan’s piece on the Twenty20 match between India and South Africa at Durban reveals what T20 cricket is all about and the damage that has been done to cricket with the advent of the Indian Premier League (“Cheerleaders in Durban”, Jan 16). Whatever cricket was left in this format has been destroyed with Bollywood’s obscene intervention in the name of entertainment.
The idea to select the IPL players on the basis of an auction has done great harm to the game.That the lure of money should reduce cricketers to commodities leaves little doubt in the minds of cricket- lovers as to what the real incentives are for the players.
Unfortunately, the matter is not related to the greed for money alone. There are enough indications to show that nasty politics and groupism have also made their unpleasant entry into this particular format.This was very much evident in IPL3, and the nature of the recent biddings for this year’s IPL has shown that things are going to be the same this time around as well.
Debasish Chatterjee, Calcutta