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Pilgrims caught in massive traffic jam

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Many trapped for hours together on the Nilackal-Chalakkayam stretch along dense forests



Untold misery:Vehicles caught in the traffic block along the Nilackal-Chalakkayam stretch of the main trunk road to Sabarimala on Sunday.

NILACKAL: Vehicular traffic between here and Pampa on the main trunk road to Sabarimala went haywire on Saturday, causing hardships to pilgrims for about 36 hours. Reports say a system introduced by the police to streamline traffic is to blame.

Hundreds of vehicles were caught in the jam on the Nilackal-Chalakkayam stretch, adjoining dense forests, for hours together. They included buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation and those of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Esther Yashica, special officer of the corporation at Pampa, said a bus took four hours to travel the 22 kilometres from Nilackal to Pampa.

Experts said unscientific parking of heavy vehicles on either side of the Plappally-Pampa stretch led to the bottleneck.

Many parts of the Nilackal base camp have turned slushy in the heavy downpour, making it difficult for vehicles, especially heavy ones, to enter the parking lots.

The parking lots at Pampa were full by Saturday morning owing to the heavy inflow of pilgrims from Friday afternoon. The police were forced to permit parking of light motor vehicles on the roadside, as the Triveni parking lots on the banks of the Pampa could be submerged anytime in flash floods following the week-long incessant downpour in the forests.

Hundreds of pilgrims were stranded on the Sabarimala road for nearly six hours. Some unscrupulous wayside shopkeepers at Attathode appeared to have benefited from the traffic block, with the price of a one-litre bottle of drinking water going up to Rs.40-50.

Nightmare

Many pilgrims told The Hindu that it was a nightmarish experience for them. “Even the cellular phone network was not available in the forest area and we could not contact our relatives or the police authorities for help,” said an elderly pilgrim from Kottayam.

The traffic congestion began to ease by 1 a.m. on Sunday following the intervention of Superintendent of Police K. Sanjaykumar. Some vehicles parked on the roadside were removed using a crane. Mr. Sanjaykumar is camping at Pampa to review the traffic system.

Vehicular movement on the Nilackal-Pampa stretch continues to be slow owing to the increased traffic on Sunday.

Reports say the one-way system introduced by the police at Nilackal on Sunday morning has contributed to the problem.

It is alleged that the police force deployed at Nilackal for traffic and crowd control on Saturday was inadequate to handle the weekend rush of pilgrims.

The downpour and rush continues at Sabarimala as thousands of pilgrims trekked the hills on Sunday.

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