MANNANUR: The three-day Saileswaram Jatara that began on April 15 in Amrabad Tiger Reserve passed off peacefully, but not without its share of controversies.
With political patronage increasing for the festival, and with pressure from the government to allow everyone who wants to visit the temple during the jatara, this year’s entry fee collection turned into a mess with sudden orders from Hyderabad that the entry fee be scrapped, two days into the festival. An amount of Rs 1,000 was proposed to be deducted for private four-wheelers, and lower amounts for two-wheelers and autorickshaws from this year. Finally, orders were issued to halve the entry fee on the last day of the festival.
According to officials, no vehicle can be allowed into a tiger reserve without an entry fee, as per the rules of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which governs all goings on in the country’s tiger reserves. The amount collected was desperately needed for a post-jatara cleanup, food and payments to the large number of volunteers, an official said, adding: “There will be a few tons of trash that will need to be picked up.”
This year there is an additional challenge of disposing tonsured hair, as many pilgrims are tonsuring their heads. When barbers were enquired about their plans to dispose of the waste, forest department staff were informed that the hair will be thrown in the surrounding forest or in the ‘gundam’, the pool of water formed by a waterfall near the temple. The barbers were then directed to carry sacks and to stuff the tonsured hair in it to be transported out of the tiger reserve for disposal.
Though entry into the forest area was originally planned to have been stopped at 6 p.m., this turned out to be impossible to implement as hundreds of vehicles began piling up near the entry point at Farhabad. The entire area, including the parking lots, the way to the temple and the location where shops and ‘anna dana satrams’ came up, was lit up with generators brought to the area.
A senior forest department official in Hyderabad said that a thorough review would be held sometime later this month to evaluate how to regulate the number of people entering forests for such events, and security measures inside Telangana’s wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves.