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Administrative crisis in TDB

By Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

PATHANAMTHITTA, SEPT. 28. The administrative crisis in the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) following the inordinate delay on the part of the Government in nominating two members to the Board is likely to mar the smooth conduct of the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival at Sabarimala which begins on November 16.

The TDB, the administrative body of the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala and 1,207 other temples in the State, consists of a president and two members nominated by the Government for a term of four years. Both the member posts have been lying vacant for the past 10 months.

The TDB president, N. Babu, takes the decisions of the Board now. And his four-year term ends on the eve of the beginning of the season.

What the Act says

As per Section 13A of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious (3rd Amendment) Act 1990, ``in the event of all the members of the Board ceasing to hold office as such, the Government may, by notification in the gazette, appoint an officer, not below the rank of a member of the Board of Revenue and who is a Hindu as the chief commissioner to exercise such powers and perform such duties of the Board as may be specified in the notification till the new members assume office.''

There is intense campaigning in political circles for the posts of the TDB president and members. The recent change of guard in the State appears to have slowed down the pace of the appointment process. The new Devaswom Minister, K.C. Venugopal, seems to be doing his homework before embarking on the tasks at hand. The meetings he called at Pampa and Erumeli on Sunday to review the arrangements for the season ended up as mere `publicity gimmicks'. The last-minute cancellation of the Pampa-Erumeli visit of the Public Works Minister, M.K. Muneer, on Sunday is considered an indication of the Government's indifferent attitude towards Sabarimala.

Cold war

The cold war between the Forest Department and the TDB continues to be a major hurdle to the development of Sabarimala. Devotees are of the view that there should be a positive change in the attitude of the TDB and the Government on providing basic pilgrim facilities in the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa without disturbing its sanctity and pristine beauty.

The coordination committee appointed by the Government for the smooth conduct of the season has been found to be of little relevance.

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