Rashmi Ranjan

While four years have passed since the Supreme Court issued a 25-point directive on Puri Srimandir reforms, the Odisha government has reportedly failed to comply with the apex court orders.

Forget smooth darshan arrangements at the 12th century shrine or provision of Mahaprasad at an affordable price at Ananda Bazaar, the Odisha government is yet to appoint a permanent chief administrator of the temple, which was also one of the directives issued by the apex court back in 2019.

Notably, while hearing a petition filed by Mrinalini Padhi, a lawyer from Cuttack, the SC, on November 4, 2019, had directed the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) to appoint a permanent administrator of the managing committee while passing an interim judgment on Srimandir reforms.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had issued at least 25 directives including the establishment of an accommodation facility for 60,000 pilgrims, a waste treatment plant in Puri and establishment of schools and colleges in collaboration with the SJTA to promote Jagannath culture.

In between four years have passed and compliance with the SC’s directive is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, with the deadline to submit the action taken report fast approaching, the Law Department has sought reports from the concerned department to furnish details on the work done so far. 

Puri Sub-Collector, Bhabataran Sahu said while land has been identified for the establishment of Aadarsh Gurukul for the servitors, the construction of Dharmasala has begun on 10-acre land near Baseli Sahi Police Station.

“A low-cost Dharmasala with 3700-devotee capacity is coming up on 10-acre land behind Baseli Sahi Police Station. Out of the five blocks, construction of one block has already begun. We are hopeful to meet the deadline,” Sahu said.

“We are hopeful that the Odisha government will appoint a permanent chief administrator before the due date. The heritage corridor work is on at a very fast pace,” said Gourahari Pradhan, a senior servitor.

Despite the SC directives, the devotees continue to go through a thorny experience to have darshan of the deities at the Srimandir. While the price list of Mahaprasad is nowhere to be seen at Ananda Bazaar, the collection of alms and donation is yet to be abolished at the shrine.

“We also feel bad, about the way devotees struggle to get the darshan of the deities. The directives issued by the SC can only be complied with after completion of the heritage project,” said Madhab Pujapanda, a member of the temple managing committee.

Furthermore, notwithstanding the SC order, the Odisha government has only managed to digitize records of 34,200-acre land out of 60,418-acre land of Lord Jagannath.

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