Did negligence lead to Sabarimala tragedy?

G.K. Nair Kochi | Updated on November 12, 2017 Published on January 26, 2011

Yet another tragedy took place after 12 years at Pulmedu near Sabarimala, killing almost double the number of pilgrims who lost their lives in a similar stampede at Pampa on the same January 14 in 1999.

Probably what the Justice Chandrasekhara Menon Commission that inquired into the Pampa Hill tragedy on January 14, 1999 at Sabarimala killing 52 lives said in its conclusion, becomes relevant here also.


It said, “The Commission has no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the State Government, the TDB and the KSEB have failed to take proper and necessary steps in preventing such an incident. To that extent they are guilty of negligence.

“It is the duty of the Government to see that the pilgrims coming to Sabarimala from different parts of the country do not get injured in their trip, that well laid roads are there, proper and strong barricades are put up in the elevated portion, and no over crowding which might lead to stampede and other tragedies, takes place. If any such things happened on account of the breach of duty of the Government, the State can not wash off its hands by stating that it was inevitable in the nature of the huge assemblage of pilgrims”, says the report.

The Commission reminded the State of its responsibility by making the observation, “In the nature of Article 21 of the Constitution, strict liability is of the State to see that the right to life of a citizen is properly safeguarded. The liability of the State in the matter is even created in Public Law by our Constitution and this liability is not hedged by any limitations,” it added.


It appears that the authorities concerned handled the things lightly as is evident from the incidence of ignoring the warning given by the District Collector, a pilgrim from Tamil Nadu said.

The Idukki District Collector, is reported to have informed the police officials of the upsurge in the number of pilgrims on these routes and “instructed them to deploy sufficient police force at Pulmedu, Vandiperiyar and Vallakkadavu so as to avert chances of law and order problems at these places”, he pointed out.

Master plans

In fact, such a mishap happened even after a number of master plans for Sabarimala considering the ever increasing number of pilgrims year after year, were prepared and submitted by various agencies including the Legislative Committee on Environment, Mr N.K. Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary, Pampa Parirakshana Samithy, who was also a member of a committee, told Business Line.

The Legislative Committee on Environment (1996-98), he said, prepared a master plan about 13 years ago emphasising the need to develop the transportation facilities in the very area where the tragedy occurred on January 14 this year, he said.

The Committee also proposed that 60 per cent of the total pilgrims shall be allowed to Sannidhanam through Pampa and 40 per cent through routes mainly Vandiperiyar Sabarimala Sathram and Vandiperiyar-Kozhikkanam-Pulmedu. This report was submitted to the Legislative Assembly on Aug 6, 1998.

Apart from this, a number of master plans were drawn up by Hindu religious establishments and private agencies. The latest was a mega project running into several thousands of crores of rupees prepared by a consultancy firm, allegedly implying its implementation on commercial lines with private-public participation.

All of them are seems to be safe in the shelf of the successive governments. Even the Pampa Action Plan (PAP), under the National River Conservation Programme with the Central financial support, had not been implemented even though it was approved some eight years ago, at least to arrest the sewage load from Sabarimala pilgrimage to the River Pampa.

Nearly 90-day long pilgrimage attracts an estimated over 60 lakh of pilgrims from various parts of the country and abroad. It boosts the income of several Government departments, of course the Travancore Devaswom Board, apart from the booming commercial activities running into several thousands of crores of rupees and yet Sabarimala development remained neglected, an official of the All-India Ayyappa Sewa Sangham said.

There should be a fool-proof system in place for crowd management, regulated movement of pilgrims on all the forest paths leading to Sannidhanam, apart from all the other basic infrastructures like in Tirupathi, Vaisho Devi etc, a senior former TDB official said.

No more superficial programmes would help alleviate the problems given the ever increasing number of pilgrims year after year, he said.

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Published on January 26, 2011
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