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P T Mohanan Pillai | ENS | Sabarimala | Sept 5. 2015:: The high-power committee (HPC) on Sabarimala infrastructure development, which met in Kochi on Saturday, took a few crucial decisions with the larger objective of improving the quality of pilgrimage to the hill shrine.
K Jayakumar, chairman of the Committee and former state Chief Secretary, told Express that the key decisions taken at the meeting related to the improvement of the basic facilities for pilgrims, including the supply of purified drinking water in reusable glass bottles and the setting up of at least 50 drinking water kiosks where purified water would be available free of cost.
According to Jayakumar, the setting up of reverse osmosis plants and a bottling plant would be needed in the wake of the Kerala High Court order banning the sale of packaged drinking water in PET bottles at Sannidhanam. And it will be ensured that emptied bottles are not unscrupulously used for the refill.
The poet-bureaucrat said the committee decided to expedite the installation and commissioning of the aravana packaging plant donated by NRI businessman Ravi Pillai.
Regarding the anxiety and criticism over the delay in installing the plant, Jayakumar said it involves electrical, mechanical and civil works which cost more than `three crore.
As procedural formalities had to be complied with, the process got delayed, he said. However, he was hopeful that the plant would be commissioned before the beginning of the next Mandala-Makara festival in November, Jayakumar said.
Jayakumar said the Valiyanadappandal at Sannidhanam would be remodelled to provide comfortable seating to the pilgrims in clean surroundings. The old asbestos roof would be replaced with Hindalium sheets and the flooring and lighting would be improved at a cost of `3 crore.
The high-power committee solicited the support of sponsors to provide seats as per specification. The project would give the much-needed facelift to Sannidhanam and provide the required convenience and relief to the pilgrims. Jayakumar said the earlier plan for a two-storeyed nadapandal in place of the existing one was being shelved as it didn’t agree with the guidelines of the Master Plan.
Another crucial decision was to create a joint management committee between the HPC and the Annadanam Trust to oversee the management and professional functioning of serving free food at Sannidhanam, the HPC chairman said, adding, the annadanam halls would be ready by mid-October.
In a departure from the existing arrangement, which has always invited complaints and criticism, high quality kitchen equipment, elegant furniture and polite service would be ensured by enlisting the services of people qualified in catering and hospitality, he said. Jayakumar observed that the quality of services should match the improved infrastructure if Sabarimala aspired to become a shrine that satisfied millions of devotees. The meeting took note of the delay encountered in the time bound works under the Master Plan owing to the posturing of labour unions at Pampa and Nilackal, he said.