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Mrunal Manmay Dash

The street vendors and small shop owners along the narrow Srimandir-Swargadwar stretch have gone into panic mode fearing loss of livelihood after the Puri district administration proposed widening of that road under the Srimandir Parikrama Project.

As per reports, the administration is eyeing to make that stretch of 1.5 kms of road wide by 40 feet. In fact, it has been alleged that the district administration has not discussed with all the stakeholders whose shops will be demolished in the project and took a unanimous decision by consulting some influential personalities.

The decision has reportedly created panic and has drawn resentment from small business owners.

Speaking to OTV, a local, Biswajit Mohapatra said, “We do not know when the Collector hold meeting with our people. If one was in fact held, no member from our ‘Sahi’ was present in the meeting. The administration took the decision after discussing with some influential persons in the area. This is not right. They should have asked all the stakeholders including us.”

Similarly, a Khaja (local sweet dish) maker, Gaganbihari Panda said, “We are a few Khaja makers left in the city. If the road is widened we will certainly lose our business.”

Another section of the locals has demanded rehabilitation before eviction. Speaking to the reporters, former Councilor, Nrusingha Sahu said, “There are at least 200 families who will get affected by this project. We have demanded that they should be rehabilitated before eviction.”

That being said, even the proposed 40-feet widening of the road seems to have met with resistance from locals as some have demanded to limit the width to 30 feet only.

Former Chairman of Puri Municipality, Gourahari Pradhan said, “The Collector had called us to discuss their plan. We agreed to the widening of the road to 30 feet, but not more than that. If they go ahead with the 40-feet plan, then we will definitely launch a protest.”

Samarth Verma, Puri Collector said, “We have expansion plans for Balisahi road and Lokanath road. We are currently discussing our plans with all the stakeholders and we will go ahead with the project after taking all of them into confidence.”

It is pertinent to mention here that, the stretch between Kukudakhai square to Swargadwar on sea beach has a lot of small temples, mutts and private property which will be razed if the road is widened. The narrow road is used by thousands of tourists and devotees who go to the sea beach after availing darshan at the Srimandir. The administration has planned to widen it to 40 feet so that traffic congestion can be eased on that stretch

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