Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 16 (Agencies): Kerala government and the temple board drew flak for Sabarimala stampede as they allegedly fail to act on recommendations of the panel, which probed a similar tragedy in 1999, to develop alternative routes to the hill shrine to check recurring mishaps.

Opposition parties and Hindu outfits on Sunday alleged that the Pullumedu disaster which claimed 102 lives could have been avoided if the report of the judicial probe into the 1999 tragedy had been implemented in right earnest.

On January 14, 1999, 52 pilgrims, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, were killed in a stampede at Pampa, the river-bank base camp on the foothills of Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple.

Justice Chandrasekhara Menon, who probed the tragedy, in his report had suggested the need to provide basic amenities on the Pullumedu route through which a large number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu travel.

The report had pointed out that over 60 per cent of devotees coming to Sabarimala during the pilgrimage season are from other states and this route provide them easy access to temple towns like Madurai on their return journey.

The panel also made a strong case for developing Vandiperiyar route through which at least 40 per cent of pilgrims could be diverted to avoid huge rush and latent dangers along the Pampa route.

One of the main recommendations of the report was the urgent need to develop an alternate base camp at Uppupara, the spot where Firday's stampede happened.

Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy held that the government did not start the work on a transit camp even though the land for such a facility had been identified five years back by the then UDF Government.

VHP state general secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan alleged that the government and Travancore Deveswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, had been 'sleeping' on the commission report.

However, the report had made it clear that without assuring basic facilities and security, pilgrims should not be allowed to trek through the Pullumedu route.

It suggested that only after creating facilities like resting places, vehicle parking, toilets, small eateries and shops and proper lighting the devotees be allowed to pass through the route.

The report also wanted the trekking path along the Pullumedu route to be widened at least by 4 meters and iron railing to be erected on either side.    
The report suggested that improvement of facilities should be in tune with Sabarimala Master Plan.

All the panels that looked into problems of the hillshrine, surrounded by a dense forest, had suggested that the plans should be of long-term perspective taking into account the requirements at least for the next 25 years.

According to Hindu outfits, the government also turned a blind eye to intelligence reports suggesting deployment of more police contingents for crowd control and security along Pullumedu route through which the pilgrim flow has been increasing every year.

Reacting to the criticism, officials said that the government had constraints in developing Sabarimala like any other major temple sites as the shrine is located in an ecologically sensitive spot in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Pullumedu mostly comprises grasslands on the steps of the Western Ghats, a conducive habitat for tigers and leopards.  The work of the Rs 1,500 crore Sabrimala Master plan, which could have changed the face of Sabrimala in terms of amenities if implemented, is moving on a snail pace, Rajasekheran said.

The plan envisaged to provide various amenities, including putting up a rope-way, was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015. The main hurdle for rope-way construction was non-availability of forest land.    Only few crores of rupees were spent since the plan got approval in 2007, he pointed out.