TDB seeks State’s help to prepare for annual pilgrimage

The board wants an assistance of ₹100 crore from the government

With just a couple of months left for the annual pilgrim season at Sabarimala to take off, a financially constrained Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has once again approached the State government seeking an assistance of ₹100 crore to prepare for the event.

Confirming the move, TDB president N. Vasu said a request to this effect had been submitted to Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal through Devaswom Minister K. Radhakrishnan. The restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 had a drastic effect on its revenue sources with the board suffering a loss of over ₹600 crore since March last year.

“The average daily expenditure on Sabarimala when it is open to devotees during the monthly pujas is around ₹30 lakh. The cost is even higher during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku days as the arrangements have to be foolproof irrespective of the declining footfall. Given our current financial profile, there is no way we can go ahead with the plan without the State’s support,” said Mr. Vasu.

The income from Sabarimala, which used to be the board’s main stay for long, fell to ₹21 crore during the last pilgrimage season as against ₹270 in the previous year. The uncertainty over the length of the pandemic-induced disruptions has only exacerbated the fears of next season also becoming a financial disaster.

As per estimates, the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 are having a drastic effect on the revenue source of the TDB with the board suffering a loss of about ₹600 crore since March 2020.

During the previous fiscal, the TDB had received a financial assistance of ₹90 crore from the State government in two instalments. In July this year, it received yet another tranche of ₹10 crore as short-term assistance.

In view of the regulations on the entry of pilgrims this season, the TDB has also sought to curb the cost of preparations by bringing down the official deployment.

“Last year, when the daily number of devotees was fixed at 1,000, we had around 12,000 policemen on duty at Sabarimala, besides officials from various other departments including the revenue and public works. Rationalising this number in proportion to the daily limit of pilgrims will help bringing down the cost and reduce the risk of a pandemic spread as happened last year,” pointed out a senior TDB official.

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