Pradeep Pattanayak

At a time when the issue pertaining to missing keys of Ratna Bhandara continues to haunt the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), it seems to have attracted a fresh trouble over huge pendency of utilisation certificates (UCs). 

According to sources, the temple administration has allegedly not submitted utilisation certificates (UCs) amounting to over Rs 142 crores despite several reminders. An important meeting under the chairmanship of a special officer of the finance department will be held on December 15 on the issue. 

The SJTA has been asked to furnish details about the expenditure between 2003 and 2021. 
According to reports, the Law department had written a letter to the SJTA and the State Endowment Commission on December 2, wherein the Law department asked the SJTA to submit UCs of years starting from 2003-04 to 2020-21. 

With the SJTA not responding to the letter, the Law department again wrote a letter on December 8, informing the SJTA authorities about a meeting under the chairmanship of an officer on special duty (OSD) being fixed on December 15.  The SJTA has been asked in the letter to depute a designated officer to furnish details about the UCs worth Rs 142,81,55,955. This apart, the SJTA has also been directed to keep the records ready by December 10. 

Now questions are being raised whether the SJTA has the details of the money spent in 18 years or not. If it has, then why it is buying time to submit the UCs. If it doesn't have the records and fails to submit the UCs, it is to be seen what step the Law department will take against the SJTA. 

“The SJTA’s failure in submitting UCs for years between 2003-04 and 2020-21 has raised many questions. The crores of rupees received by the temple administration may not have been spent properly. At the same time, accusing finger is pointed at higher officials accusing them of collecting PCs from the temple authorities,” observed Dillip Baral, RTI activist. 

In this regard, former Srimandir Managing Committee member Ramchandra Das Mohapatra said since they are bound to submit the details on December 15, they will somehow prepare the documents.     

Meanwhile, questions are also being raised about the proper utilisation of Rs 55,00,000 every year the government provides to the temple for 'Kotha Bhoga' of the deities given the fact that 'Khua Mandua', one of the main items of 'Kotha Bhoga' has long been discontinued. The allegation of 'Khua Mandua' being discontinued has also been confirmed by senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra. 
“Kotha Bhoga’ is the first cooked meal offered to the deities. ‘Khua Mandua’, one of the main items of it has been discontinued for four/five months,” said Das Mohapatra. 

The discontinuance of an age-old tradition has hurt devotees as well. “The discontinuance of ‘Khua Mandua’ bhog is not a good sign for the temple tradition. This will lead to discontinuance of other traditions. It has definitely hurt the devotees,” observed Jagabandhu Mishra, a devotee. 

At a time when speculations as to the outcome of the meeting are rife, the SJTA administrator (development) Ajay Jena refuted the allegation and said they have never fallen behind in submitting UCs.

“We have regularly been submitting UCs every year and to substantiate it we have their copies as well,” informed Jena.