Opposition stages walkout over Sabarimala facilities

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 24 (UNI) The Congress-led Opposition staged a walkout in the Kerala Assembly today in protest against the alleged ''failure'' of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in providing adequate facilities to Sabarimala pilgrims and the government's ''inefficiency'' in coordinating activities of various departments during the ongoing Mandala-Makaravilakku festival season.

Replying to the notice for an adjournment motion sought to be moved by Mr Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan (Cong), Devaswom Minister G Sudhakran said all efforts had been made to provide adequate facilities to the pilgrims and claimed that no such development works had ever taken place in the history of Sabarimala.

Besides the direct supervision of the TDB, 22 other departments were also coordinating the work in Sabarimala. The Devaswom Department had released a grant of Rs 80 crore to the TDB for providing facilities to the pilgrims, he added.

He said the TDB, which administers the temple, had spent Rs 22 crore and completed 85 per cent of the development works. The remaining works, including queue complex and ropeway would be completed soon, he said and requested the Opposition to keep away from unnecessary controversies.

The government was prepared to urge the Centre to declare Sabarimala a national pilgrim centre, and if necessary, to adopt a resolution in the House in this regard, he said pointing out the nearly six crore pilgrims visiting the temple during the 105-day-long festival.

Mr Sudhakaran said the TDB expected a revenue of Rs 100 crore during the current festival as against Rs 83 crore last season.

Leading the walkout, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy alleged that the government could not provide adequate facilities to the pilgrims even after the Centre allotted 12.67 hectare of land from the Periyar tiger reserve two years ago.

Except controversies no developmental activities were taking place at Sbarimala, he said and alleged that TDB members and special officers were ignoring the suggestions and directives of the Minister.

Earlier, Speaker K Radhakrishnan refused leave for the motion in the light of the Minister's reply.

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