Missing Ratna Bhandar key: Dama Rout questions judicial inquiry, Puri King’s silence

Bhubaneswar: The judicial probe ordered by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik into disappearance of Srimandir Ratna Bhandar (treasure trove) key is just a tactics to divert the attention of the opposition, said senior ruling-party leader, Damodar Rout today.

“A few years back there was a clash between police personnel and villagers at Maikanch village under Kashipur police station of Rayagada district where one villager died. Following uproar by the opposition, Justice PK Mishra Commission was formed and nearly Rs 12 lakh was spent on it, but none was found guilty in the report. Such is the way inquiry commissions function,” said Rout.

He also raised suspicion that the ornaments in the Ratna Bhandar may have been stolen. Rout questioned the silence of Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb as he is one among the three persons who have the keys of the Ratna Bhandar, which consists of ornaments worth crores of rupees.

Three keys of Ratna Bhandar are with three persons – Puri Sankaracharya, Gajapati Maharaja and Bhandar Mekap. Anyone of them could embezzle the valuables inside Ratna Bhandar; then what will you do? Why is the Gajapati Maharaja still silent on the issue? questioned Rout.

On the other hand BJP spokesperson Pitambar Acharya said, “The State government is targeting the Gajapati Maharaja to hide its misdeeds. It is an example of the government’s inefficiency and will receive an adequate reply from people of Odisha in coming days.”

Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra opined that the Ratna Bhandar should be opened again for audit of the ornaments. Puri Sankaracharya, Gajapati Maharaja, representatives of the State government or any prominent persons could be members of the committee to carry out the audit.

As an alternative, the government can also constitute a committee under the commission formed to probe the disappearance of Srimandir’s Ratna Bhandar key, he added.

“CCTV cameras should be installed and the ornaments audited in presence of all the committee members to clear the suspicion in the minds of people,” said Mohapatra.

He further added that nearly 98 per cent of the persons who had entered the Ratna Bhandar for audit in 1978 and 1985 are not alive and it will create a major hurdle in the probe. Therefore, audit of the ornaments inside Ratna Bhandar is necessary after completion of the Rath Yatra, he added.

Similarly, Leader of Opposition, Narasingha Mishra said, “There is a need of opening the Ratna Bhandar and check if the property is intact. The motive behind the judicial enquiry is to suppress the matter.”

“People believe that ornaments worth crores of rupees are stored inside the Ratna Bhandar. The keys of such a prominent place, which should be kept in strong room of the treasury, have gone missing. It proves the inefficiency of the authorities,” said vice president of Mukti Mandap Pandita Sabha, Ashok Mohapatra.