#SabarimalaRow: Union Minister demands private vehicles be allowed till Pamba
(Sourced from PTI)
Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who was on his way to the Sabarimala Temple, today engaged in a brief war of words with the police in Nilackal (Kerala) over restrictions on private vehicles heading to Pamba, the last entry point to the Lord Ayyappa shrine. The Lord Ayyappa Temple was opened on November 16 evening for the over two-month-long pilgrim seasons amidst tension.
Though IPS officer Yatish Chandra said the minister could travel in his official vehicle, Radhakrishnan preferred to proceed to Pamba in a state-run KSRTC bus as a mark of protest against the restrictions imposed by state-authorities causing difficulties to pilgrims. Radhakrishnan, the Minister of State for Shipping and Finance, arrived at Pamba a day after the visit of Congress-led UDF MLAs and BJP MPs.
Radhakrishnan visited Pamba to take stock of facilities offered to devotees. After reviewing facilities, the minister asked Chandra the reason as to why only KSRTC vehicles were being allowed till Pamba and demanded that private vehicles also should be allowed. "You (police) are unnecessarily harassing devotees. Why only KSRTC vehicles are being allowed till Pamba? This isn't good for Sabarimala pilgrims," the minister said.
Chandra, however, said that parking lots in Pamba had been washed away in the August floods. He said, the KSRTC buses would not park at Pamba and would be returning with pilgrims. But if private vehicles were allowed, they would create traffic blocks.
The senior police official explained to the Union Minister about the features of Pamba, an environmental fragile area. He also said if the Union Minister gives him in writing to allow private vehicles to Pamba, he was prepared to allow all vehicles. Accompanied by the BJP state leaders and activists, the minister later interacted with the devotees, especially those who arrived from neighboring states.
Carrying the customary 'irumudikkettu' (the sacred offerings to Lord Ayyappa), Radhakrishnan later headed to Pamba in the state-run bus along with other leaders and activists. "The government should correct itself, otherwise the people will correct them", he said in Pamba. Meanwhile, senior leaders and activists of Opposition Congress-led UDF, who staged protests at Pamba and Nilackal yesterday, had been booked for defying prohibitory orders.
BJP MPs, V Muraleedharan and Nalin Kumar Kateel, along with a group of other party leaders, also visited the base camp in Nilackal and Pamba and reviewed infrastructure facilities. They also interacted with several devotees and asked about the facilities offered at the shrine complex.