Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government, often accused of bending backward to keep servitors of Puri Jagannath temple in good humour, has landed in an embarrassing position after the revelation that it paid Rs 2 corresponding to the Daitapati servitors as ‘compensation’ for the loss suffered by them due to the ban on devotees climbing the chariots during the annual Rath Yatra last year.
In a letter to Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) dated 12th May, 2016, a copy of which is in the possession of OTV, the state government has directed chief administrator of the shrine body to “accord approval of Rs 2 crore (Two Crore) only towards payment of compensation to Daitapati Nijog for prohibiting the devotees from climbing the chariots during the Rath Yatra, 2015.”
“The said amount may be released by Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) from its own fund which will be reimbursed through budgetary provisions of the State government,” the letter read.
What has raised eyebrows is the role of SJTA in recommending the amount in favour of the servitors.
The letter, from BP Sahoo, Under Secretary to Government, has clearly mentioned receiving a recommendation (letter No- 4129) from the Temple Administration in this regard on 28th March, 2016.
The revelation has evoked sharp criticism from all quarters. While scholars and ecperts on Jagannath cult have criticised the State government for appeasing the servitors, others including retired bureaucrats have condemned the act.
“Why the servitors were paid such a huge amount and that too to enforce the High Court order which asked not to allow the devotees to climb the chariots during Rath Yatra? It is public money and every transaction should be transparent,” said Prafulla Rath, Jagannath culture expert.
“It is not equitable if a government pays some amount to appease a particular section of the society for a particular cause,” retired IAS officer Arabinda Behera said.
In 2014, based on the recommendations of Puri seer Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Orissa High Court had directed the Odisha government not to allow devotees atop the chariots.