The two-month-long pilgrimage season opened in Sabarimala on November 16, and as of today, many problems including revenue deficit to Covid-19 affect the temple. The latest reports indicate that since last Monday, almost 40 people have been tested positive for Covid including pilgrims and police personnel. Three police officers posted at Sannidhanam and Pampa have been positive, pushing the authorities to ring the warning bells.
The situation has prompted joint action from the Travancore Devaswom Board, health and police personnel. However, the situation is more complex than it seems. Another problem that plagues the temple is the dip in revenue as compared to previous years. In the last 12 days, 13,529 devotees have visited the shrine, according to TDB President N Vasu. This is considerably smaller than in previous years. Moreover, the temple has collected around Rs 2 crore against the average Rs 40-45 crore they usually get. This has led the government and board to think about allowing more pilgrims.
Currently, 1,000 are allowed on weekdays and 2,000 on weekends. To accommodate an increase, TDB has asked the police department to report when the ‘virtual q booking’ site will open. The online booking system is managed by the police department, while TDB is planning one of their own. Reports indicate that all of this is in preparation of increasing the number of people allowed to the temple. This calls into question the Covid-19 protocols that will need to be followed.
The authorities have informed that they will tighten checking at all the major entryways such as staff gate, Malikapuram temple gate, Devaswom mess gate, and many others. They would closely monitor government employees, even temporary workers, and if any seem to have symptoms, they will be sent to the nearest hospital, which has been fitted with Covid, testing facilities. Face shields and masks are also recommended to keep further infections at bay.