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Pradeep Pattanayak

The replacement of some old information boards installed at the site of Srimandir heritage corridor project in Puri with new ones has given rise to several fresh speculations about the project which has been caught in a storm of controversy. 

People concerned about the project believe the design of the project might have been intentionally altered by the makers after stiff protest by the Opposition. 

Earlier descriptions on the info boards like ‘SHREE MANDIRA PARIKRAMA PROJECT AT THE HERITAGE CITY OF PURI’ has been found changed to ‘MALE TOILET’, ‘FEMALE TOILET’ and ‘SHELTER PAVILION TYPE 1’. 

Meanwhile, the development has left people asking questions whether the project design has been changed due to controversy or is it a trick to hoodwink ASI and other officials, who are likely to take stock of the temple project for the first time after the eruption of the controversy? 

Similarly, one more question is also begging to be answered. And that is whether the mounting pressure following the opposition has indeed forced the Odisha government to alter the design?

In the meantime, social workers and advocates have upped their criticism against the Puri district administration and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) over the development. 

“Earlier, we would believe that they have had permission from some concerned agencies like Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA) regarding the design of the project. Now with the frequent changes in the design has led us to believe that they don’t have any permission but rather a handful of officers are carrying out the project as per their wish,” alleged social worker Dillip Baral. 

Biswanath Das, an advocate said they are in dark as to why the government seemed to have changed the design of the project. 

As per the new boards, a shelter pavilion, male and servitor toilets are being constructed at southern gate. A reception centre is being built at Lions’ gate. However, there is no mention of the deep holes dug up at the northern gate. Nobody knows what structures will come up there, he wondered. 

On the other hand, the House Committee of the Odisha Assembly formed under the chairmanship of Speaker Surjyanarayan Patro to inspect the project on March 31 has not met even for once. This has provided the Opposition a peg to hang their attack on the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government. 

“It would be a disgrace for the panel if it doesn’t visit the site. At the same time, if the committee visits the site after prolonged delay it would be of no meaning,” said BJP MLA from Puri, Jayant Sarangi. 

Expressing his displeasure, Congress Legislative Party leader Narasingha Mishra said the Speaker had called for a meeting of the committee few days ago. But, two hours after the notice was served, the notice was withdrawn and the meeting was suspended. “No initiative has so far been taken for the meeting,” said Mishra. 

When contacted, Speaker Surjyanarayan Patro said, “The committee will visit the site after a primary discussion with the engineers of the Works department.”

Notably, the Orissa High Court has fixed April 21 as the date to hear the matter.

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