As many as 10 Maharana servitors engaged in the construction of chariots in violation of Odisha government’s order were arrested in Nilgiri area of Balasore in a joint raid by the district administration and police on Monday.
The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath has been banned elsewhere is the State except for Puri this year in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Today’s raid on Ratha Khala, the workplace of chariot construction, was led by the sub-collector, tehsildar and Nilgiri police. While 10 artisans have been arrested, the construction equipment have been seized.
Ajay Swain, a Maharana servitor said, “No construction activities were being carried out here. We were just hanging out when the sleuths came and picked up 10 servitors. As I was away for some work, I escaped the arrest.”
Nilgiri Sub-Collector Harishchandra Jena said, “The Odisha government as well as the district Collectors have imposed a ban on the construction of chariots and its pulling during Rath Yatra this year. However, despite my repeated notices, they were making the chariots.”
“Today, I along with Tehsildar and police, reached the spot and the Maharanas working there have been arrested. The equipment used for chariot construction have been confiscated. FIR will be registered in this regard,” he added.
On June 10, the State Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena had issued an order banning Rath Yatra scheduled to begin on July 12 elsewhere in the State except for Puri in view of COVID19 pandemic. “Ratha Yatra/car festival shall be conducted this year in Badadanda of Lord Jagannath Bije Puri and nowhere else in the State in the same manner as was done last year,” read the order.
While the decision was welcomed by many, there are demands from devotees from various parts of the State for permission to hold the grant festival.
Recently, servitors and the people of Baripada, which is known as second Srikhetra, staged a protest urging the State government to allow the celebration of annual Rath Yatra in Baripada sans devotees like Puri.
Similarly, a petition was filed in the Orissa High Court seeking permission for conducting the Rath Yatra of Sidhha Baladevjew in Kendrapara in the lines of the festival at Puri Srimandir.