Mrunal Manmay Dash

People in Malkangiri and Ganjam’s Khallikote expressed their resentment after finding the 'arua' rice collected by the district administration through Arpan Rath, lying unused at several places.

As per reports, quintals of arua rice collected by the Arpan Rath in Malkangiri with Lord Jagannath’s idol in the back of the vehicle, have been lying unused at the local Jagannath temple.

While it was promised by the Odisha government that the rice and betel nut donated by the people would be sent to Puri to be used in Srimandir Parikrama Project inauguration on January 17, seeing the rice still at Malkangiri made the locals fume over the BJD government.

“We offered rice, and betelnuts to the Arpan Rath. They told us, the rice collected would be sent to Puri. But the rice is still lying at our village temple. When we asked the authorities, they told us that they have not got any order from the government regarding the rice,” a woman from Malkangiri said.

“I want to ask, why the government played with our sentiments. They even played with the Lord. Is it the right thing to do?” she asked.

Similarly, a man who was employed by the district administration to make the Arpan Rath roam and collect rice from door to door, said, “I am very disappointed to see the rice still lying in Malkangiri. The administration had told me that the collected rice would be used in puja during Parikrama Project inauguration in Puri. But it turned out to be false. All my time and energy roaming with the Arpan Rath has been wasted.”

Asked about the issue, Malkangiri GPO, Narayan Hajda said, “The rice collected by ‘Arpan Rath’ from houses, has been stored at Trinath temple in our village. We will act as per the direction of the government. The government had told us to send the rice to Puri, but they have not told us when.”

A similar kind of situation emerged at Khallikote in Ganjam district where hundreds of packets of arua rice donated by the locals are lying unused at the local Jagannath Temple.

Sources said, the district administration had promised them that the donated rice will be used in Lord Jagannath’s work during Parikrama Project inauguration and the betel nuts will be offered to the sea (Mahodadhi) at Puri.

The locals of Khallikote questioned why the rice was not sent to Puri.

The priest of Khallikote Jagannath temple said, “Officials came yesterday and left these packets of rice at the temple premise in the open. They said they would make arrangements to take away this rice soon. But I do not know when will they come back. I have even seen cattle pulling rice from these packets which are left in the open. There is no arrangement to keep the rice safe.”

When asked, Khallikote BDO Debasis Sasmal said, "The amount of rice, betel nuts and cash have been counted and stored safely. Out of that, 10 kg of rice will be sent to Puri on January 24."

Political Reactions On Arpan Rath-Collected Rice

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Pratap Sarangi said, "The rice was never collected to be sent to Puri. Otherwise it would have been reached its destination on the Parikrama Project inauguration day. The rice was left for the BJD workers to feast. Arpan Rath was a drive aimed to influence voters. The government never had any religious sentiment."

In response to Sarangi, senior BJD MLA Debi Mishra said, "Whatever rice and betel nut has been collected will reach its desired place."