Tirupati, (IANS) Devotees visiting the Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirumala were hit hard on Wednesday as taxi drivers and owners of hotels and shops refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes after the government’s sudden move to demonetise them.
The pilgrims, who flock from all over the country to the temple town, had a tough time buying food and other essential items of daily use. Some were facing difficulties even in buying milk for their children.
“After reaching at the railway station on Wednesday morning, we learnt that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are no longer valid. Since we were travelling, we are carrying only high denomination currency notes,” said G. Rammohan, a devotee from Visakhapatnam.
With banks and ATMs closed for the day, the pilgrims and visitors had no option but to borrow or buy on credit, or to rough it out.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which runs the affairs of the hill shrine — the richest in the country — intervened to provide some succour to the pilgrims. It arranged for free food, snacks and milk for all pilgrims.
“We are also accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for darshan tickets,” a TTD official told IANS.
Arrangements were also made to enable devotees swipe their credit and debit cards for accommodation and other services provided by the TTD.
The officials of IT and Finance Wing of TTD deployed Point of Sale (PoS) machines or swiping machines in Tirumala and also in Tirupati for booking rooms, purchasing ‘laddu prasadams’, calendars and diaries of TTD.
More than 50,000 pilgrims every day have ‘darshan’ of the idol at the Tirumala temple in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The number of pilgrims on Tuesday stood at about 69,000.
The pilgrims at Sri Bhramrambha Mallikharjuna temple at Srisailam and other prominent shrines in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Telangana also had a tough time due to the Centre’s move to do away with high denomination currency notes.
The devotees complained that the sudden move caused them severe inconvenience as they were stranded at bus and railway stations. Many went without food for hours.
As it is ‘Karthika masam’, an auspicious period, thousands of devotees throng the temples, especially at Srisailam.
Meanwhile, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded that both the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments set up special counters at temples administered by them to help devotees exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.