Kerala government fiat puts Telangana, Andhra Pradesh Ayyappa pilgrims in a flap

Sabarimala pilgrims
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Sabarimala pilgrims

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Health officials refuse RT-PCR certs issued by Telugu States

Hyderabad: Tens of thousands of Sabarimala pilgrims from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are facing a tough time following Kerala government's decision not to accept the RT PCR test certificates issued by the two Telugu States.

Speaking to The Hans India, N Srinivas from Krishna Nagar in Hyderabad said, "In all, 50 of us had to book the slot before taking Diksha. Because there are restrictions on the number of people and tokens are issued for visiting Sabarimala. However, he said the concern of the Kerala government to contain the spread of Covid is justified.

But the problem arises regarding the RT PCR test certificates. As per the rules laid down by the Kerala Health Department, anyone visiting Sabarimala should carry a certificate of completion of two doses of Covid vaccination. Besides, pilgrims should carry an RT PCR certificate of Covid negative taken within 72 hours.

It takes a maximum of 24 to 28 hours from Hyderabad and other places in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to reach Sabarimala by road or train. Flights from Hyderabad to Kochi take less than two hours. Those who fly can reach the Sannidhanam at Sabarimala from Hyderabad within 15 to 20 hours. It includes the time for travel by road from Kochi and other nearest airports, says another pilgrim Sridhar, visiting Sabarimala for the past seven years.

The RT PCR test results taken before starting would be well within the 72 hours stipulated time of the Kerala Health Department.

However, S Ramana from Satyanarayanapuram of Vijayawada said the health officials had accepted the vaccination certificate downloaded from COWIN portal stating that they had taken both the doses. But they had refused to accept the RT PCR test results of Covid negative.

He said the officials were insisting the pilgrims to take the RT PCR test again on arrival and charge Rs 1,500 per test.

"We were made to wait till the evening to get our test results. But, the rate of RT PCR test on arrival is not fixed. It looks they have adopted dynamic floating rates like that of airlines prices of tickets," says C Raghunath Reddy, from AS Rao Nagar in Hyderabad. Normally, the RT PCR test results are supposed to be given within two hours. But, depending on the number of people, sometimes it takes six hours or even more. If the test results come before 2 pm, one can reach Sannidhanam before the closing time of the temple for the day. Otherwise, one has to wait for the whole night to take darshan next day," he added.

Adding to these woes, lack of state road transport buses from different rail and flight entry points is making it tough for the pilgrims. "The auto and cabs are charging anywhere from Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,200," he rued.

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