Kancheepuram: Kancheepuram District Collector P. Ponnaiah turned into a security guard at the entry of the Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple on Tuesday as reports erupted alleging bogus ‘donor’ passes were in circulation. Hundreds of such passes, many of them ‘colour photocopies’ of the originals issued by his office to 'genuine VIPs’ from the political and other elite classes, were being sold for fancy prices ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000, it was being alleged.
One 'tout' trading in such passes has been detained.
Collector Ponnaiah spent considerable time at the temple entry personally checking the pass-holders and other devotees arriving for worshipping Athivaradar on this 16th day of the Lord's darshan after being brought out of the temple tank bed. The grand deity in lying posture, made of 'atthi' (fig wood), emerges from his water bed once in 40 years and the swelling crowds of people coming from all over India, and even abroad, is mostly because not many would be able to have his darshan more than twice in their lifetime. The rarity of the religious phenomenon also contributes to the huge turnout of people along with the concomitant scourge of corruption and fraud in trading in entry passes.
With several people slamming the district administration and also the HR&CE department for the poor arrangements for the devotees - the social media has been particularly flooded with such criticism -- Collector Ponnaiah has now decided to spend considerable time every day at the entry point and also the inside of the temple to personally inspect the arrangements and also the crowd situation, according to official sources here.
It has been reported that the Collector in June said 30,000 to 50,000 devotees are expected per day between the July 1 and August 17 (the last day of darshan), but the turnout was twice that, even thrice on especially auspicious days. The lack of preparedness, or rather inadequate preparedness, caused huge inconvenience to the devotees, particularly the women, the pregnant among them and the elderly, as they had to trek barefooted for a long distance and wait in the queue for five to six hours. There was not enough drinking water and one report said there were just six bio-toilets in the four mada streets (around the temple) and they start stinking within a couple of hours.